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Bridging the Digital Divide – CTU and Microsoft’s Nationwide Initiative to Empower the Youth with AI Skills

In an ambitious leap towards technological empowerment, CTU Training Solutions, in partnership with Microsoft, launched a groundbreaking initiative that has set a new precedent for digital education in South Africa. The Microsoft AI Youth Project, a comprehensive programme designed to demystify Artificial Intelligence (AI) for unemployed youth, has achieved remarkable success nationally. With 220 learners participating across various CTU campuses, this initiative not only aimed to educate but to transform lives through the power of AI. 

Spanning the expanse of South Africa, from bustling cities to quieter towns, in February 2024, each of the twelve CTU campuses became a beacon of learning, welcoming up to 20 learners per campus into the fold of the future. The enthusiasm and commitment displayed by these learners were met with an equally passionate response from the facilitators at CTU, ensuring a rich and engaging learning experience for all involved. 

The curriculum presented was meticulously designed to cover a broad spectrum of topics, including the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), Workplace Readiness, CV Workshop, AI-900 Microsoft Azure AI Fundamentals, and AI-050 AI Solutions with Azure OpenAI Service. It was not just about imparting technical knowledge; the programme also emphasised soft skills such as communication and critical thinking, essential for thriving in the modern workplace. 

A hallmark of the programme’s success is the completion of the AI-900: Microsoft Azure AI Fundamentals short course and certification by each participant. The international certification is not just a testament to the learners’ understanding of AI concepts but also a valuable credential that opens doors to future opportunities in the tech industry locally and globally. Furthermore, all 220 learners achieved their badges and attendance certificates for CTU’s 4IR (Fourth Industrial Revolution) course, marking a significant milestone in their educational journey and underscoring the effectiveness of the programme’s curriculum. 

At the heart of the Microsoft AI Youth Project’s success lies a dedicated team of CTU Training Solutions’ Microsoft Certified Trainers, whose collective expertise has been pivotal in delivering this transformative programme across all CTU campuses. Their expertise on the subject and notable patient teaching methods ensured that learners not only grasped the complexities of AI and data analysis but also felt empowered to explore these fields further. 

Learners from various CTU campuses have shared their appreciation for the programmes ability to simplify complex AI concepts and provide a pathway to valuable certifications. 

Notable among the feedback, Diego from the Durban campus expressed, “This training programme was led with expertise, engaging teaching style, and commitment to our growth,” highlighting the facilitators’ effectiveness. Similarly, Priya’s experience reflects the programme’s broad appeal: “It was an amazing opportunity… Overall it was a very incredible course that was led with perfection.” 

Zibele Mafani, another dedicated learner at the Cape Town campus, offered insights into the holistic nature of the learning experience. “From day one, the facilitators fostered a spirit of unity, making every lesson a collaborative effort. It taught me the value of teamwork in the context of technological innovation, a lesson I’ll carry forward in my career,” Mafani reflected. 

Learners unanimously praised the patience, clarity, and dedication of their facilitators, highlighting the personalised approach to teaching that made complex concepts accessible and engaging. One learner appreciated the trainer’s iterative teaching method, noting, “The educator was patient with us… He repeats and explains in better ways for us to understand.” This sentiment was echoed across the board, with another adding, “I clearly understood what I was taught… [the educator] made a lot of examples and kept on emphasising important key points.” 

The impact of the course content provided by Microsoft was equally lauded, with learners expressing a newfound understanding and enthusiasm for AI and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. “I’ve learned a lot about AI as well as the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” one participant reflected, signalling a keen interest in further exploration and application of their knowledge in the IT field. 

The Microsoft AI Youth Project, through its ambitious scope and successful execution, has not only highlighted CTU Training Solutions’ role as a Microsoft Learning Partner but also reinforced its commitment to making a tangible difference in the community. By providing unemployed youth with access to high-quality education and internationally recognized certifications, CTU and Microsoft have together laid the groundwork for a future where technology is accessible to all.