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The youth bears the brunt of South Africa’s unemployment crises. Ranked third highest in the world, a 2014 report by the World Economic Forum reckons that more than 50% of young South Africans between 15 and 24 are unemployed.
Founder of iGrow Academy Jared Koning estimates that one of the main reasons for this discrepancy is due to a disconnect between the primary and tertiary education sectors. The entrepreneur estimates that there are over 400 000 matrics each year of which 67% do not have the access to higher education.
With its online learning platform, iGrow Academy aims to provide education to the masses. Compliant with the South African Qualification Authority, it offers short courses that students can complete within less than six months — ample time to brush up on some practical skills.
Koning, who’s also self-funded the company, notes that iGrow Academy is backed by the second biggest group of colleges in South Africa, in exchange for 15% equity. The startup launched in January this year and has since said it scooped up 800 active paying students on its elearning platform.
“We provide a platform to learn a new trade and directly implement it into your career and grow,” says Koning. Some of these courses range from Project Leadership, HR and Risk Management to Interior Design.
Koning has a background as an “all-rounder specialist” at a number of tertiary-based institutions, and says that the startup provides a platform to learn a new trade and directly implement it into one’s career and grow.
At iGrow we believe in offering everyone the opportunity to study, we offer great quality courses backed by leading institutions as well as excellent support and engagement, we also have dedicated coaches available to assist our students through our social learning aid.
A recent finalist at Net Prophet 2015 as well as Launchlab 2015, the online learning institution aims to distinguish itself from prominent players in the field, like GetSmarter or international competitors Coursera and Khan Academy with less pricy courses.
But while GetSmarter has the badge of the University of Cape Town on its front page, iGrow Academy found it extremely difficult to build a credible brand in the industry. As the case with many startups, access to market is a major issue.
The company hopes to overcome this through its recent partnership with colleges in South Africa, which means access to short courses and certificate programmes.
While the company is still young, its website seems incomplete. Some of the links are broken while the design is littered with clumsy stock imagery. This will hopefully change as more people sign up.
iGrow Academy courses range in price tags: Project Management goes for about R1 300 while a more expensive Interior Design will put a learner back R3 500. Students will get access to 20 hours of learning material, video summaries on modules, interactive lessons, mini tests and so on.
Asked to share some of the learners’ success stories, Koning simply replied: “We have received dozens of testimonials from students thanking us for providing a platform that breaks down the barrier of cost to study, resources to study further.”
Koning says that the company plans to implement live webinars with various aids and experts within the next few months. This social learning platform would allow students to directly engage with instructors.