Learners from the Pace Commerce and Entrepreneurship School of Specialisation in Soweto performed well recently at the Young Entrepreneurship Programme (YEP), coming in third among world contenders.

YEP was introduced by international skills development non-profit organisation, ORT South Africa in 2022 and is funded by the Support Teacher Empowerment Trust. In this programme, learners aged 14 to 16 from all over the world go on a 30-week curriculum that provides them with a thorough introduction to the world of innovation, technology and entrepreneurship.

ORT Johannesburg came third behind ORT Herzlia School Cape Town in second and Escola ORT Brazil in first place.

The programme curriculum is a blend of theoretical and practical activities, aimed at developing students’ knowledge, skills and understanding, and encouraging creative thinking and practical creativity, coding and robotics coordinator at ORT SA, Amini Murinda, told Mail & Guardian.

The brief for the competition is for small teams of students to design a product that solves a social problem.

“The full course simulates the real-world process of developing an initial idea through market research, analysis of risks and opportunities, defining product specifications, selecting the optimum business model, designing a marketing strategy, manufacturing a product prototype and, finally, the presentation of a business plan and sales pitch,” Murinda said.

The course also introduces the students to entrepreneurship and problem-solving, technology, design and innovative thinking, with an emphasis on international sharing, collaboration on tasks and advanced communication skills in English.

Murindi said he believed such skills would help lessen South Africa’s steep youth unemployment rate, currently at 59.6%.

“With knowledge and skills of the future, learners will be employable and can start their own businesses while, at the same time, solving problems in their communities, and alleviating unemployment,” he said

YEP student, Naledi Xaba said she had acquired many useful skills like invention, problem-solving and building something from nothing.

“I am planning to use the skills I have acquired in this programme to start my own businesses because coding is also about startups and how to sell your own products,” she said.

Another student, Entle Dzanibe, said after completing the programme he hoped to enter public speaking competitions and planned on presenting his business idea to a big company in the country.