Career advice for high school leavers at their fingertips

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Many high school students lack career guidance, found designers of a new mobile phone application aimed at helping young people find the right job.

Cape Town-based entrepreneur Mbavhalelo Mabogo, one of the co-founders of the recently released TshedzaApp, said their research also showed that without a roadmap many confused university students simply ditched their studies.

Tshedza is a Venda word that means ‘light’ and ‘knowledge’. It seems a befitting name for an application aimed at assisting young people with information about career options.

Mabogo said when they designed their application, over a two-year period, they wanted “change the face of education in South Africa and technology is the best way to do it”.

“We realised that a lot of young people are reaching varsity without any adequate career planning and access to career mentors,” said Mabogo.

“They were struggling with critical and important decisions, such as finding careers that are compatible with them, knowing the right courses to study, subject selections and access to a multitude of bursaries that are available.

“At the end of the day they were ending up in the wrong courses and dropping out due to frustration and apathy.

“We needed to come up with a solution that was lean, current and easily accessible to empower them to make better decisions about their future.”

Anyone with Internet access on an Android phone can download TshedzaApp without any additional cost.

Once downloaded, it offers at one’s fingertips a wealth of information on careers, which school subjects would be needed for a particular university course and where to study.

Mabogo and his team took the application to four high schools where they tested it.

“There is no better feeling than seeing young people engaged with the phone and you can literally see the frustration disappear,” he said.

“They find out they can be an aeronautical engineer instead of being limited to the traditionally accepted careers such as being a social worker or librarian.”

With TshedzaApp, pupils can list their school subjects and would then be able to consider career options that match this.

The application has 800 career choices listed and also shows where these career paths can be pursued at universities across South Africa.

The application also works the other way around by informing pupils what subjects they would need if they had a particular career in mind.

By listing their subjects and their examination results, pupils are able to find out immediately if they would qualify for a course at various universities.

Mabogo’s research team did not end it that though. They also inserted into the application information about bursaries that could assist pupils who cannot afford university fees.

“The problem is that these scholarships are quite difficult to find and many students don’t know that these monies are available for them,” said Mabogo.

TshedzaApp has a ‘Find Bursaries’ section that links pupils to financial avenues.

Mabogo said they are planning to expand TshedzaApp with regular updates.

“We believe industry professionals are the best career advisors, so we are currently working with them to ensure that in the future learners will be able to link up with professionals, ask questions and interact,” said Mabogo.

“We would like to empower learners to be able to communicate better with universities and with industry professionals so they can be better resourced.

“This also means that when new opportunities arise, students would be able to know as it happens through our platform.”

He added: “We plan to also include cross-learning, where learners from different provinces will be able to interact with each other. This is sharing and co-learning.”

TshedzaApp has meanwhile received recognition from various sources. It was awarded the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) innovation award and is a finalist in at least two other innovation contests.

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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