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Efficacy of Internship Component of the Software Engineering Sector in the Western Cape
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With the software sector being central to economic growth, it was important for the study to analyse the adequacy of skills in the sector. The provincial government of the Western Cape, the industry and tertiary institutions are collaboratively developing relevant Software Engineering (SE) skills. However, it was unclear whether the joint efforts are achieving the intended outcomes. The risk with uncertainty is that emphases may be placed on aspects that do not accurately address the objective of the initiative. Other SE skills shortage risks may include: failure by the region to improve productivity, innovations, exports, and the risk of failing to reduce high unemployment. It is important therefore, that the efforts to address SE skills shortage in the Western Cape succeed. This research made extensive use of relevant literature. Interviews were conducted with employers from chosen companies in Cape Town, South Africa, with an HR representative, HOD from the faculty of Computer Science from Universities and with SE interns. Within the interpretive epistemology, a qualitative inductive methodology was applied. In this respect, a non-probability purposive sampling was used to approach only members of the population ready and willing to give the required data. Despite internship programs being in full operation, findings highlighted the SE technical skills in short supply in the Western Cape and these include Java, dot Net and database skills. The high shortage of SE skilled personnel is pointed out to be a result of few SE graduates from SE tertiary institutions which is blamed on few Universities enrolments. Furthermore, Universities indicated poor mathematics pass rates at matric level as the main reason for having low SE enrolment levels since mathematics is a prerequisite to the SE course. Adding on to that, findings confirm that high SE skills shortage are a result of the imbalances of theoretical and practical aspect of SE courses at Universities. The main reason for the imbalances is that there is no communication between SE industry and Universities. It would be beneficial if companies were consulted by universities when syllabi are prepared. This way, affected parties could forge a common ground to close the skills gap. It may also help tertiary institutions to review and change their syllabus at the right time, in order to focus on what are current imperatives in the SE industry. Findings also reflect that the main reason for SE internships is the need to build up the SE technical skills of interns through work related learning in the SE industry. These internships have been successful in alleviating the problem but not high enough to solve the SE skills shortage in the province. This implies these Internship programs could positively contribute to the alleviation of SE skills shortage in Cape Town if more is done to improve the programs. A greater focus on enhancing such programs would provide benefits in the SE field. Consultative collaborations between the tertiary sector and the industry on curricula matters are recommended. Thus, a need for a more solid relationship between SE tertiary institutions and the SE field of operation needs further investigation. Students on the other hand need to be proactive by collaborating with other relevant SE related affiliations for knowledge sharing seminars especially on the current technologies in use in the SE industry.