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Honoris United Universities, the first and largest pan-African network of private higher education institutions, announced last week that they had launched of the Honoris 21st Century Skills Certificate, a programme that aims to enhance the employability of its students by equipping them with the most in-demand soft and digital skills required to thrive and be competitive in the 21st century world of work.

Based on global researches and engagement with employers across the African continent, the Honoris Academic Council, a pan-African team of faculty representatives with exemplary backgrounds and academic experience, developed the Honoris 21st Century Skills Certificate, a fully online, completely self-paced program, available in English and French, they said in a media statement.

The first phase of deployment of the program has begun in four institutions in the Honoris network- two in North Africa and two in South Africa. The Honoris network consists of 12 institutions in 10 African countries and 32 cities.  The network spans Botswana, Mauritius, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Swaziland, Tunisia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. These institutions are well established authorities within the disciplines of Medical & Health Sciences, Engineering, IT, Business, Law, Architecture, Creative Arts & Design, Media, Political Science and Education.

Laura Kakon, chief growth and strategy officer of Honoris United Universities noted that the world of work has entered an era where nothing is guaranteed. “Employers are adopting new ideas and technologies at a rapid pace and as a result, students need to keep up with the latest innovations and technologies in order to remain competitive and in high demand.”

Honoris United Universities believe in future-oriented learning to prepare their students to harness technology and innovation, in order to thrive and compete in automated, data and AI-driven realities.

“We also believe in empowering our students with an academic and skills experience that leads to cognitive agility and a mobile mindset, two attitudes and behaviors of success. The Honoris 21st Century Skills Certificate will help bridge the skills gap in Africa by preparing our graduates for the future world of work,” she said.

Programme content

The Honoris 21st Century Skills Certificate delivers skills training in areas highlighted by industry analysts and by the demands of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), ensuring that graduates enter the world of work empowered with high cognitive skills and digital literacy competencies that are necessary to navigate our changing world.

The 100-hour online programme constitutes a four-module design including personal, social, digital, and entrepreneurship skills which will be embedded in Honoris member institutions’ curricula.

The programme trains students in the eight of the most in-demand skills by employers and for the future of work: behavioral intelligence, creativity and design thinking, critical thinking, communication, collaboration, coding, data analytics and entrepreneurship, they said. These skills, which serve as a driving force for the 4IR, ensure that Honoris graduates keep up with the dynamics of the labor market.

“It should be noted that while English is the de facto language of business, coding is the new second language for the 21st century, an area which all students, irrespective of their area of study, will need to understand. This understanding of coding, which is included in the certificate, will contribute to developing a computational thinking approach to problems, allowing for new responses to changes in the digital economy,” the media statement said.

Criteria for participation

When running in full force, the 100-hour program will be available to all students across the Honoris network, Honoris Universities said.

The Honoris 21st Century Skills Certificate will target two groups: the first being all Honoris graduating students including all African learners, school leavers, and working professionals. The certificate is intended to be mandatory for most of Honoris students and will be embedded into the current curricula or as a top-up program depending on the academic policies of each member institution.

The program would also available to external learners through partnership between Honoris member institutions and organizations that seek to upskill or reskill their workforce to provide in-demand critical skills for the new world of work.

The application process

The application process is at institution level in each country. The program is available through a mobile responsive platform that is also accessible through a mobile app, making the learning experience available in both an online and offline mode.

Honoris Universities added that beginning with the 2020/2021 academic year, Honoris graduate diplomas including the Honoris 21st Century Skills Certificate will be issued through blockchain technology through a partnership with BCdiploma. This will provide each graduate with a unique URL that makes it possible to share their verifiable and tamper-proof diplomas digitally.

Expanding reach

Honoris United Universities currently gathers a community of 45 000 students on 60 campuses, learning centres and via on-line, in 10 countries and 32 cities. It brings together over 280 degrees, 75 000 alumni, more than 40 nationalities and exclusive partnerships and exchange programs with more than 60 universities in Europe and the United States.

Honoris Universities is currently exploring markets such as Kenya and Egypt as the network continues to expand its footprint in Africa as part of its mission to provide education for impact across the continent.

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