Innovative skills development incubator Sum of 21 Academy ups the ante

Innovation. Upskilling. Fine-tuning.
Carmen Gunkel
Carmen Gunkel
Focusing on the above areas to further enhance and leverage the skills of its learners and graduates, the dynamic training academy, Sum of 21, is making impressive strides in bringing fresh ideas and perspectives to the SA advertising and creative landscape.

“This year will see more focus being placed on integrated training interventions within Sum of 21 to ensure that the training and operational components of the business continue to work in unity with one another," academic and business head, Carmen Gunkel, points out.

The need to constantly remain relevant, to set the pace with industry expertise and to encourage and foster innovative methods not only within the advertising industry, but also within the training environment, means that mentors and all permanent staff within Sum of 21 actively participate in industry events and training interventions themselves, Gunkel adds.

Training, courses

“The beauty of the Sum of 21 training model is that we are able to adapt to new changes with relative ease. Although programme content is pre-set and governed by quality management systems, we have control over how this content is effectively delivered.

“In order to maximise active learner engagements, we constantly review teaching and learning methodologies and explore various learning platforms, specifically in a digital space,” says Gunkel.

“In addition to the various programmes and modules already being delivered, we are currently piloting a short course in Advertising in preparation to roll out a National Certificate in Advertising.

“In addition, we are running copywriting workshops in an attempt to bridge some of the gaps and challenges copywriters face within the agency. Presented by qualified and experienced agency copywriters, these workshops take place bi-monthly at our premises and are aimed at developing the skills of internal staff within Sum of 21, specifically young creatives and young communicators. The content has been specifically developed in-house to address creative copywriting needs,” Gunkel explains.

To oversee the quality of the content and training being delivered, a dedicated academic programme coordinator has also been appointed. “The coordinator plays an integral role in the facilitation of the programmes, as well as the development of tailored content for the different courses. Senior staff have furthermore attended training to become registered assessors and moderators with the Education Training and Development SETA (ETDP),” Gunkel adds.

She proudly points out that the current industry placement rate of Sum of 21 graduates stands at 95%, indicating a high demand for their skills.

Benefiting significantly from its multi-disciplinary and hands-on approach, Sum of 21 graduates, in turn, applaud the way in which Sum of 21 has assisted them in furthering their careers.

“The academy truly built me for the industry. I would recommend an internship to anybody who intends going into design to check out the academy, as it will change their careers big time,” says Chris Mojewa, Sum of 21 graduate and currently graphic/multimedia designer at Oxigen Communications.

He continues: “While Sum of 21 provided me with the platform to experiment in different fields of design, it has also exposed me to different professions such as marketing, strategy, PR and many more. This gave me better understanding of how the industry as a whole works.

“I love multimedia very much, videography and photography in particular. Sum of 21 gave me the opportunity to learn as much as possible; also exposing me to awesome projects that allowed me to put my skills into practice and showcase them. In fact, Sum of 21 gave me more than skills; it gave me team players who were more like a family to me. We worked as one and that showed me that teamwork is really important in the work environment.”

Topping Mojewa’s list of the most valuable, but also practical ‘lessons’ he learnt during his internship, which he applies almost daily at Oxigen, is discipline. “The long and the short of disciplined work is that it allows me to meet my deadlines. In addition, a spirit of doing your utmost until the job is done at its best level and with added value to produce both cool and functional designs or concepts, was instilled at Sum of 21 - and it’s doing wonders for me at Oxigen Comms.”

Challenges, fourth industrial revolution

Concludes Gunkel: “The rise of the fourth industrial revolution affects the design industry as it does all industries. Although we are still in the beginnings of it, there is still a lot of speculation with regard to its impact on jobs and education specifically. The realities of artificial intelligence, automation and augmented reality exist. The best we can do as an industry and specifically a training environment is to acknowledge the ever-changing workplace as a result of these innovations in science, biology and technology. The focus will therefore be on encouraging graduates who are adaptable and adequately skilled for the ever-changing environment.”

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