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MasterStart x MD2MD LeaderFest 2021: Developing leadership skills

As we look forward to the much-awaited face-to-face return of LeaderFest’s annual event, community members will have the opportunity to connect, learn and grow their skills in essential leadership and performance areas of their businesses. 

Bringing together inspiring leaders from across the globe in a lively and interactive format, MasterStart, a collaborative online partner of leading executive and business education providers, showcases career-focused programmes designed to unlock leadership potential through a humanised online learning experience. 

As part of our vision to develop diverse leadership teams committed to making a meaningful contribution on a local and global scale, MasterStart is nurturing the human skills within course participants and facilitating them with top-tier faculty, industry experts and relevant coursework to maximise their educational outcomes. This methodology has allowed us to build a course completion rate of 90%+ across MasterStart programmes. 

Contributing to developing a new generation of mindful leaders, we have a vision of humanised online learning, utilising the best of industry and academia alongside a higher awareness of sustainability and responsible governance.  The significant business transformations over the pandemic have meant it’s more important than ever for organisations to improve access for employees to career-enhancing courses that will enhance job satisfaction and build the business’s tech and leadership capabilities.


“Education is key in empowering people to grow their capabilities and their confidence so that they can become the leaders that the world needs today.”

Ben Pike, MasterStart CEO

Developing Women Leaders

Encouraging women to rise into leadership positions brings a unique combination of talents, creative views, and, most crucially, structural and cultural distinctions that help to drive efficient long-term strategies. In companies with gender diversity of 10% or more, earnings before interest and taxes increased by 3.5%*. In short, women leaders make a key impact on the bottom line. *McKinsey & Company

MasterStart, in collaboration with MD2MD LeaderFest, will be sponsoring limited seats to our UCT GSB Developing Leaders Course – designed to empower women in the workplace and diversify leadership potential within organisations. 

Participants can develop knowledge and skills through MasterStart’s validated and contextualised course content, meeting the goals of businesses increasingly seeking workers with the human abilities to succeed in fast-changing sectors and company operations. Throughout the human-centred course programme, women will gain the knowledge and know-how from industry-leading faculty to improve in the core areas of self-development, career advancement and personal development.


“It was about being inclusive, and nobody is better or worse than anyone else, and the way to be a leader is to inspire people. It’s not hierarchical. It’s not being better than anyone else. It really showed bravery to show that we’re not all perfect. I don’t know how to do it all, but I think I’m good at this, you be good at that. Let’s go on this journey together.”

Lisa Donoghue, Developing Women Leaders Participant

Focusing on industry-leading courses that speak to and connect with the sustainability and ESG agenda, MasterStart ensures that students are at the forefront of all we do, from enrolment to long after course completion. We’re investing in people and the leaders of tomorrow. 

Join MasterStart CEO Ben Pike alongside speakers from various industries on the 13th of October 2021 and recognise your leadership’s significant impact on company performance, experience, and future opportunities. 

Check out LeaderFest 2021 here.

If you’re interested in our January 2022 Developing Women Leaders programmes visit here.

Why your business needs Business and Management Development training to thrive in the 21st century

It has become increasingly evident that business and management development training is crucial for any organisation, big or small. As technology advances, businesses are under more pressure to keep up with the new wave of innovation that will impact their operations and bottom line.

To stay relevant, top of mind, and agile enough to compete in today’s fast-paced world, it is critical that businesses have the correct strategic knowledge in their human resources skills stack.

Investing in Business and Management Development training may provide the vehicle your company needs to drive success. We discuss three topics covered in our Business and Management Development short course.

1. Understanding Porter’s Five Forces
2. Confident decision making
3. The difference between leading and managing

1. Understanding Porter’s Five Forces
The Five Forces model is widely used to analyse the industry structure of a company and its corporate strategy. Michael E. Porter identified in his book “Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors” five undeniable forces that play a part in shaping every market and industry in the world, with some caveats – of course.

Michael’s five forces are used to measure the following: 

  • Competition in the Industry
  • Potential of New Entrants into an Industry
  • Power of Suppliers
  • Power of Customers
  • Threat of Substitutes

Competition in the Industry
This refers to the number of competitors and their ability to undercut a company. The more competitors a business has and the number of equivalent products and services these competitors offer, the lesser the competitive edge of that business. Suppliers and consumers cherry-pick out a business’s competitors if these competitors can offer a better deal or lower prices. On the flip side, when competitive rivalry is low, a business has greater power and can charge higher prices and set more beneficial deal terms to achieve higher sales and profits.

Potential of New Entrants into an Industry
A business’s competitive edge is also affected by the force of new entrants into its market. The more cost-effective it is for a competitor to enter a business’s market and be competitive relative to the existing business, the weaker and established the business’s position will be in the market. An industry with strong barriers to entry is ideal for existing companies since the business would be able to charge higher prices and negotiate more beneficial terms of service.

Power of Suppliers
The next factor in the five forces model addresses how easily consumers and suppliers can drive up the cost of products. This is impacted by the number of suppliers of key deliverables of goods or services, how unique these deliverables are, and how much time and capital it would cost a business to change suppliers. The fewer suppliers in an industry, the more a company would depend on a supplier. As a result, the supplier has more power and can drive up the cost of the deliverable and push for other advantages. On the flip side, when there are many suppliers or low switching costs between rival suppliers, a business can keep its prices lower and enhance its profits.

Power of Customers
The saying the Customer is king holds true in this factor. Consumers have, through their buying power, the ability to drive prices lower or higher. This power is affected by how many buyers or consumers a business has, how significant each consumer is, and how much it would cost a company to find new consumers or markets for its deliverables. A smaller and more robust consumer base means that each consumer has more power to negotiate for lower prices and better deals. A business with much smaller, independent consumers will have an easier time charging higher prices to increase profitability.

Threat of Substitutes
The last of the five forces focuses on substitutes. Substitute goods or services that can be used in place of a business’s products or services is a danger. Companies that produce goods or services with no close substitutes will have more power to increase prices and lock in more beneficial sales terms. When close substitutes are available, customers will have the option to skip buying a company’s product, and a business’s power can lose potential sales.

Porter’s Five Forces key takeaways: 

  • The model serves as a basis to analyse a company’s competitive environment.
  • It quantifies the number and power of a company’s competitive rivals, potential new market entrants, suppliers, customers, and substitute products that influence its profitability.
  • The Five Forces analysis can be used to guide business strategy to increase competitive advantage.

As with all models, Porter’s Five Forces does have its oversights; Business Managers need to understand and navigate these as they present themselves.

2. Confident decision making
Decision-making is an essential management skill that can both drive and impede financial performance. According to research by management consulting firm McKinsey, organizations with fast and efficient decision-making processes are twice as likely to report financial returns of at least 20 percent as a result of recent decisions.

McKinsey’s research also shows that inefficient decision-making can lead to more than 530,000 days of lost working time and $250 million wasted labour costs per year.

Here are five tips to help you make effective decisions:

  • Perform Regular Financial Statement Analysis
  • Estimate the Financial Impact of Projects and Initiatives
  • Budget your team’s time with a strategy in mind
  • Involve Your Team in Decision-Making
  • Track Financial Performance

Perform Regular Financial Statement Analysis
Financial statements are among the most important resources at Business Managers disposal when it comes to decision-making. A Business Manager should know how to read them and interpret them, and use them as a strategic advantage. In MasterStart’s Financial Management short course, we delve deeper into analysing and crafting these documents.

Estimate the Financial Impact of Projects and Initiatives
Conducting a cost-benefit analysis is another way Business Managers can use finance to make better business decisions. Using data to drive decisions as a framework is critical to making sound evidence-based business and strategic decisions. This approach breaks down complex business decisions and chooses to pursue projects expected to yield the best outcomes.

Budget your team’s time with a strategy in mind
By breaking down a team’s work into a detailed set of deliverables during the budgeting process, Business Managers can track your spending against estimated expenses and, when necessary, pivot their project management strategy to ensure tasks are completed on time and on budget. Our Project Management short course equips Project Managers and Business Managers with the grassroots skills to drive deliverables and budget effectively across projects.

Involving Teams in Decision-Making
Considering options and collecting a list of alternatives is an essential step in the decision-making process. By involving teams in business decisions, Business Managers and Businesses, in general empowers the individuals in the group and potentially, opens up options and alternatives that may not have been considered. According to research by software company Cloverpop, teams make better decisions than individuals 66 percent of the time.

Tracking Financial Performance
Business Managers need to be armed with the knowledge of the company’s past and present financial performance indicators (Gross Profit Margin, Working Capital and return on equity). This empowers the Business Manager to make sound decisions. Strategic decision making and monitoring the success of decisions made in the past and current market helps shift goals and strategies towards the business’s financial KPIs driving success-driven change and planning.

3. The difference between leading and managing
The key to a successful business is finding a way to be both a leader and manager at the same time. Leadership and management skills enable an individual (or company) to handle multiple tasks effectively and develop the relationships necessary for long-term success.

Mentoring and formal training can help employees utilise and use their leadership skills. According to research by the Chartered Management Institute, 90% of members who have completed a management and leadership qualification found the experience improved their performance at work.

There was also a “ripple effect”, with 81% of the surveyed group passing their knowledge to colleagues.
Celebrating individual leaders can also cause some to forget that it is never just one person running the show. Not everyone who is in charge of a team is both a leader and a manager. Within a successful organisation, there needs to be a mixture of both and therefore celebrating all individuals who were a part of that achievement. Many people are both leaders and managers. Having managed people but along the way realised that it is not possible to buy people to follow you down a difficult path then start to act as leaders. The challenge then lies in making sure that managers are both leading teams and managing their day-to-day operations.

Those who are able to do both, will create a competitive advantage for the business.

In Conclusion:
Skilled Business Managers are critical to driving business growth and strategy in the 21st century for companies to adjust to modern demands. They do not need to overspend or search far and wide for the skills required. The right person is often found in the folds of the company itself. Investing in your workforce and buying into training programs that teach workplace relevant skills is more critical now than ever.

Read more articles on Business Management:
Introduction to Business Management: What You Need to Know
What are the top 5 leadership skills in business management?
What can you expect from a business management salary?
Business Management: The Complete Guide to Organisational Leadership
The benefits of business management
Study business management for the leading edge
5 skills you need to fast-track your career in business management
Are you new to business management?

MasterStart and Coventry University launch landmark microcredentials to improve access to key skills in Africa.

Today, we at MasterStart have announced our exciting collaboration with Coventry University – a UK-based institution that was recently ranked best in the world for online courses. These four new microcredential courses are designed to unlock leadership potential within the next generation of leaders. The Coventry collaboration is aligned towards developing sustainable leadership, responsible governance and improving knowledge of key topics including digital marketing, data analysis, and managing diversity and inclusion.

Learners who wish to grow their skill sets can join one of the seven-week online programmes that are delivered through the MasterStart online campus. The focus is on humanised online learning where delegates will have the opportunity to meet industry leaders and learn from faculty and peers alike.

“Education is key in empowering people to grow their capabilities and their confidence so that they can become the leaders that the world needs today.” Ben Pike, MasterStart CEO

This partnership gives students the opportunity to take a step forward as future-ready leaders, carefully nurturing their specialised hard skills as well as valuable human skills to gain the confidence and competence to thrive in their careers. 

The courses are dual accredited, meaning graduates gain credits from both Coventry University in the UK and SABPP in South Africa. In a world that has shifted significantly towards remote working, this is a truly unique benefit and allows graduates of the programmes to enhance their employability on the international stage. Furthermore, the microcredentials that are built into each programme allow for flexible and respected learning journeys where they can build on their CV over time.

We at MasterStart couldn’t be any prouder of the new collaboration and look forward to it enhancing the career prospects of thousands of our learners. It will expand on our educational approach of combining the best of content developed by industry leaders with the rigour of academic credentials. Learners can read up on the new microcredentials here:

Ben Pike, MasterStart CEO, concludes that: “We see leadership potential in a diverse range of people from a broad range of backgrounds. We focus on building the real-world skills that people need and the human skills that leaders need to be effective in the world in which we live today.”

Realise and unlock your leadership potential with Coventry University and MasterStart. 

View Courses

The Accidental Academic

MasterStart chief innovation officer Faryn Pearson talks to Silicone Cape co-chairperson Professor Sumarie Roodt

Professor Sumarie Roodt is the co-chairperson at the Silicon Cape Initiative, an NPO and ecosystem enabler for tech-enabled startups and the co-founder at the Tech4Good Lab at the University of Cape Town, which is Africa’s first dedicated research lab of this kind. She is also a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Information Systems in the Commerce Faculty at UCT.

1. It’s relatively unusual for an academic to be heading up an industry body – what led you to take up the Silicon Cape position?

I’m the accidental academic; I did not come from an academic background, I didn’t teach from the beginning. I finished my undergrad in informatics and went straight into the banking sector where I spent almost half a decade in financial services. There I had exposure to banking and the digitisation of the industry across the continent and to the number of cultures and micro-societies that provided so many opportunities. But we were always aware of the complexities and the challenges in the continental disparities. It was clear Africa has the potential to be a global player in the innovation landscape and for disruption and innovation. Fast forward 14 years later, my research led me to this point, being at the helm of an NGO and a lab pushing for innovation in tech.

2. How do you juggle the various hats you wear? Where do you find the time?

It is really all about how we use our time and whether you are working on things that you’re passionate about. You make sacrifices, you make choices. Being a board member at Silicon Cape is non-paid and if you look at the amount of time we spend on supporting and driving it forward, it is substantial. We do it because we’re deeply passionate about entrepreneurship, technology, and how technology can disrupt and innovate to really take Africa to the front of the innovation leaderboard globally. So to do this, we make choices. It’s that simple. I’m also selective about how I spend my time, who I spend it with and where.

3. How does being informed tie into woman empowerment in the industry?

The two words that go hand in hand are vulnerability and authenticity. You can’t be truly vulnerable if you’re not authentic either. Vulnerability is one of the most powerful things that you can share with somebody because it shows your intentions. I’m willing to do the work. My sights are set on my entrepreneurial journey, or at least being on the Fortune 500 list, being one of the first African women. 

But we see how male-dominated the industry is and even though the lists for men and women are separate, we don’t need a separate list – we need change and I think that will come from being informed across the board. It’s always ironic to me when women have these conversations when men are meant to be part of it too. I think there is, of course, room for us as women to talk about this stuff but we need to include men and their experience and information as part of the conversation else we are becoming the thing we dislike in excluding men from the discussion.

4. How do you, as a person from the global south, think we need to change our mindsets to keep up internationally?

I’m willing to do the work. There are no guarantees but what I ask for is a chance and I need to know what I need to do to get that chance. One thing I always say is, “Do not make yourself small; there is no reason to make yourself small.” I see myself as a bright, shining star and you are a bright, shining star. 

This also comes with supporting other stars, upcoming ones too. It’s really about self-belief. There have been instances where people said to me, “Sorry, don’t even bother applying for that because you’re never gonna get it.” But it wasn’t actually about me. 

South Africans have this mentality of making themselves small on the global stage. I see it with our startups pitching alongside startups from the US and UK, facing European privileges. Somehow, our entrepreneurs make themselves small in those situations and when they lose out, I ask what happened and the response inevitably is, “These guys from Silicon Valley know exactly what they’re doing.” My response is, “Do you not think you know what you’re doing too?” We truly need to be honest about the fact that as South Africans – and maybe even as Africans – we view ourselves as less advanced, less developed, and we don’t stand a chance. That mindset needs to change both ways – from us and the rest of the world.

5. What are your thoughts on the concept of ‘lifelong learning’ – what does it mean to you? How do you apply that concept to yourself?

I’ve never aspired to be academic. I thought after my initial research that it was not going to happen. The reality is, being in that academic space gives you the freedom of space to think about what kind of world I want to live in and how can technology be used in that type of world, and to then explore that as well as contributing to people’s own self-development, meaning education, which I also am deeply passionate about. 

Education is one of the key enablers of growth as a society. What was apparent to me when I did begin research was that the venture capital landscape in South Africa was very much male-dominated and had very few women, either in founder or leadership positions. And that worried me and this needed to change. 

Fourteen years later and the representation – or lack thereof – is still quite scary when you look at the gender distribution of fund founders and fund leaders; 9.7% of all funds in this country are either founded and or led by women. We need to be actively working on and pursuing a change in that disparity.

At 43, I feel as if I’ve lived a few lifetimes in one, and yet, I feel still so young at heart in terms of what the future holds because here we are at the precipice of the digital revolution in Africa. I get goosebumps because I’m witnessing the most incredible innovation come from this continent daily and I’m watching how it’s transforming the continent and its capabilities in technology.

MasterStart, Cambridge Spark offer online tech training courses

South African edtech platform MasterStart has partnered with Cambridge Spark to offer online tech training courses to Africans.

The first courses commenced earlier this month.

The partnership aims to promote online skills development in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This partnership will unlock the leadership potential of thousands of students and deliver a diverse pipeline of top talent, accelerating technological and data driven innovation,” MasterStart CEO, Ben Pike, said in a statement.

ben pike

According to a study by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), around 230 million jobs on the Africa continent will require some form of digital skills by 2030.

Through the MasterStart courses, participants can develop skills related to data analysis, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and technological innovation.

Participants can then use the acquired knowledge to contribute to advancements in their respective fields.

This includes fields such as healthcare, education, financial services, and agriculture.

“It will also contribute to data science skills development and the empowerment of African youths in a field that is increasingly providing opportunities for career advancement,” Cambridge Spark Founder and CEO, Raoul-Gabriel Urma said.

Based in the UK, Cambridge Spark is a specialist provider of data science and AI courses.

It offers courses in partnership with institutions such as UCT and provides training in over 60 countries.

By Sam Spiller

Source: Memeburn

MasterStart and UK-based Cambridge Spark collaborate to bring data analysis and AI training online for African professionals

South African edtech MasterStart and UK-based Cambridge Spark today announced a partnership that will provide students across the African continent with access to data analysis and AI training courses, online.

Many African economies are struggling to meet the need for the digital skills, including data science and artificial intelligence expertise, that are needed for organisations to truly get the best out of digital transformation in the public and private sectors.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted efforts to address this, requiring skills development initiatives to move wholly online.

The Cambridge Spark MasterStart partnership aims to address this through providing access to world-class, online courses that address the need for hard technical skills combined with the human skills leaders need.

Cambridge Spark is a UK-based specialist provider of data science and artificial intelligence courses. MasterStart has spent recent years building out its portfolio of management and leadership courses in partnership with South Africa’s most prestigious business schools including USB-Ed, University of Cape Town and GIBS. The company delivers programmes to over 5 000 students each year and has provided training in over sixty countries including those on the African continent such as Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique and Zambia.

This partnership with Cambridge Spark signals both MasterStart’s international expansion and a move into key data and analysis skills with world class technology training providers.

Says MasterStart CEO, Ben Pike: “This partnership will unlock the leadership potential of thousands of students and deliver a diverse pipeline of top talent, accelerating technological and data driven innovation.”

Comments Emma Wade-Smith OBE, Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner for Africa at the UK Department for International Trade: “We welcome the Cambridge Spark and MasterStart partnership. With 230 million jobs across the continent requiring digital skills by 2030, this collaboration is timely and essential, demonstrating the impact we can make when we work together and share our knowledge and expertise to help increase skills development and prosperity across Africa.

Through Cambridge Spark’s leading data analysis and AI online training courses, students can acquire the skills they need to grow and utilise their newfound knowledge to contribute to technological advancements in essential industries like healthcare, education, financial services, and agriculture.”

“This partnership aims to develop and promote the use of data analysis to accelerate technological and data-driven innovation that will help unlock Africa’s potential on a global scale,” adds Cambridge Spark Founder and CEO Raoul-Gabriel Urma. “It will also contribute to data science skills development and the empowerment of African youths in a field that is increasingly providing opportunities for career advancement.”

The partnership is especially timely as recent South African government figures put the youth unemployment rate at record levels while at the same time many employers are finding it difficult to fill vacancies, particularly those requiring specialist skills.

The first courses kicked off earlier this month.

By Creamer Media’s Engineering News

Source: https://www.engineeringnews.co.za/article/masterstart-and-uk-based-cambridge-spark-collaborate-to-bring-data-analysis-and-ai-training-online-for-african-professionals-2021-07-29/rep_id:4136

MasterStart, Cambridge Spark collaboration unlocks online AI training for Africans

Students across the African continent will be able to access data analysis and AI training courses online, thanks to a new partnership between South African edtech MasterStart and UK-based Cambridge Spark, announced today.

Many African economies are struggling to meet the need for the digital skills, including data science and artificial intelligence expertise, that are needed for organisations to truly get the best out of digital transformation in the public and private sectors.

The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted efforts to address this, requiring skills development initiatives to move wholly online.

The Cambridge Spark MasterStart partnership aims to address this through providing access to world-class, online courses that address the need for hard technical skills combined with the human skills leaders need.

Cambridge Spark is a UK-based specialist provider of data science and artificial intelligence courses. MasterStart has spent recent years building out its portfolio of management and leadership courses in partnership with South African business schools including USB-Ed, University of Cape Town and GIBS. The company delivers programmes to over 5,000 students each year and has provided training in over 60 countries.

This partnership with Cambridge Spark signals both MasterStart’s international expansion and a move into key data and analysis skills with world class technology training providers.

Comments Emma Wade-Smith OBE, Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner for Africa at the UK Department for International Trade: “We welcome the Cambridge Spark and MasterStart partnership. With 230 million jobs across the continent requiring digital skills by 2030, this collaboration is timely and essential, demonstrating the impact we can make when we work together and share our knowledge and expertise to help increase skills development and prosperity across Africa.

“Through Cambridge Spark’s leading data analysis and AI online training courses, students can acquire the skills they need to grow and utilise their newfound knowledge to contribute to technological advancements in essential industries like healthcare, education, financial services, and agriculture.”

“This partnership aims to develop and promote the use of data analysis to accelerate technological and data-driven innovation that will help unlock Africa’s potential on a global scale,” adds Cambridge Spark Founder and CEO Raoul-Gabriel Urma. “It will also contribute to data science skills development and the empowerment of African youths in a field that is increasingly providing opportunities for career advancement.”

The first courses kicked off earlier this month.

By Bizcommunity

Source: https://www.bizcommunity.com/Article/196/499/218437.html

MasterStart and Cambridge Spark now offer AI courses throughout Africa

Artificial intelligence is a hot topic these days, but there is also a skills shortage in the space that needs to be addressed.

As it so happens, we have something that might interest those looking to dive into the world of AI.

Local edtech firm MasterStart and UK-based Cambridge Spark announced a partnership today that will open up data analysis and AI courses to folks across the African continent.

The courses will take place online due to the COVID-19 pandemic which has notably disrupted education and as such, efforts to address the skill gap in AI and data analysis.

“This partnership aims to develop and promote the use of data analysis to accelerate technological and data-driven innovation that will help unlock Africa’s potential on a global scale,” says Cambridge Spark founder and chief executive officer, Gabriel Urma.

“It will also contribute to data science skills development and the empowerment of African youths in a field that is increasingly providing opportunities for career advancement,” the CEO added.

MasterStart has spent recent years building out its portfolio of management and leadership courses in partnership with South Africa’s most prestigious business schools including USB-Ed, University of Cape Town and GIBS.

The company delivers programmes to over 5 000 students each year and has provided training in over sixty countries including Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique and Zambia.

If AI and data analysis doesn’t get your motor running, MasterStart has a number of business focused courses that look rather interesting such as this one from the Gordon Institute of Business Science on Digital Transformation.

For more information on MasterStart and Cambridge Spark’s AI and data analysis courses head to the MasterStart website.

By Brendyn Lotz

Source: https://www.htxt.co.za/2021/07/masterstart-and-cambridge-spark-now-offer-ai-training-courses-throughout-africa/

MasterStart and UK-based Cambridge Spark collaborate to bring data analysis and AI training online for African professionals

South African startup MasterStart and UK-based AI specialist Cambridge Spark hope to bridge the gap between hard technical skills and the human skills needed to thrive in the areas of technology that are most in demand.

South African edtech MasterStart and UK-based Cambridge Spark today announced a partnership that will provide students across the African continent with access to data analysis and AI training courses, online.

Many African economies are struggling to meet the need for the digital skills, including data science and artificial intelligence expertise, that are needed for organisations to truly get the best out of digital transformation in the public and private sectors.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted efforts to address this, requiring skills development initiatives to move wholly online.

The Cambridge Spark MasterStart partnership aims to address this through providing access to world-class, online courses that address the need for hard technical skills combined with the human skills leaders need.

Cambridge Spark is a UK-based specialist provider of data science and artificial intelligence courses. MasterStart has spent recent years building out its portfolio of management and leadership courses in partnership with South Africa’s most prestigious business schools including USB-Ed, University of Cape Town and GIBS. The company delivers programmes to over 5 000 students each year and has provided training in over sixty countries including those on the African continent such as Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique and Zambia.

This partnership with Cambridge Spark signals both MasterStart’s international expansion and a move into key data and analysis skills with world class technology training providers.

Says MasterStart CEO, Ben Pike: “This partnership will unlock the leadership potential of thousands of students and deliver a diverse pipeline of top talent, accelerating technological and data driven innovation.”

Comments Emma Wade-Smith OBE, Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner for Africa at the UK Department for International Trade: “We welcome the Cambridge Spark and MasterStart partnership. With 230 million jobs across the continent requiring digital skills by 2030, this collaboration is timely and essential, demonstrating the impact we can make when we work together and share our knowledge and expertise to help increase skills development and prosperity across Africa.

Through Cambridge Spark’s leading data analysis and AI online training courses, students can acquire the skills they need to grow and utilise their newfound knowledge to contribute to technological advancements in essential industries like healthcare, education, financial services, and agriculture.”

“This partnership aims to develop and promote the use of data analysis to accelerate technological and data-driven innovation that will help unlock Africa’s potential on a global scale,” adds Cambridge Spark Founder and CEO Raoul-Gabriel Urma. “It will also contribute to data science skills development and the empowerment of African youths in a field that is increasingly providing opportunities for career advancement.”

The partnership is especially timely as recent South African government figures put the youth unemployment rate at record levels while at the same time many employers are finding it difficult to fill vacancies, particularly those requiring specialist skills.

The first courses are expected to kick off in July 2021.

Asking your company to pay for your course

Whether you are thinking about doing a course, browsing or finding your dream one, we know that oftentimes, finances can get in the way of making those dreams a reality. 

Here at MasterStart, our goal is to connect learners to relevant and practical coursework that is both beneficial to you, your employer and your industry. Our carefully curated courses are easy to follow and offer a well-executed and practical methodology that is manageable while working full time. Are you ready to take the next step? Here is our “how to ask” action plan when asking your company to pay for your course.

Do your research and be prepared

While you have been doing your homework when researching a course, be ready to answer a few intricate questions on it too. By equipping yourself with the necessary information that will help you answer any questions that your employer may have, being prepared will give you the confidence and know-how to answer any questions your boss or HR department may have. This is a chance to show your employer that you have really thought about and are ready to enrol in your chosen course, thus easing any concerns that your employer may have previously had.

Questions to prepare for:

  • Why do you want to do this specific course?
  • What are the benefits of this course?
  • Will this impact your day-to-day work responsibilities and focus?
  • What is the duration of the course?
  • What are the costs involved with the course?
  • How will this course make an impact on your role/company?

Detail the benefits

We may be a bit biased, but we firmly believe that education is an investment – one of investing in people, skills and equipping businesses with industry-relevant and competitive skills to take with them forward. By breaking down into detail how this course will be an asset to your company, you have the opportunity to understand how you plan on implementing the knowledge that you acquire into your everyday role and how you will use it to its fullest potential as you take the journey of online education.

When choosing any of our courses and subject material with MasterStart affiliated universities, it is important to know that you are taking a phenomenal world-class course, led by industry heavyweights in a supportive and structured online learning environment.

Examples of benefits:

  • Industry relevance – gaining insights and gathering information as to trends and practices by others, you will have a competitive edge to devising new strategies, improving processes and creating a better understanding of the industry you are in.
  • Skills acquisition – fast track your skills, from leadership to planning, our courses have a clear outline of what to expect and what you can gain when taking our online courses.
  • Career development – whether you are in the pipeline to be a manager or move to a new level, career growth and development can aid your company in increasing employee loyalty, retention and having the necessary skills in-house to reach the businesses goals.

Getting to the big question

This is often the most daunting part, it’s time to ask. Once you have sufficiently prepared and readied yourself for this moment, set up a comfortable time for you to speak to your boss. If possible, check their calendar availability, ask for a convenient time and take a few minutes beforehand to steady yourself with your pitch and proposal.

It is important to reiterate that even though you are dedicated to your potential new course, you are still and will remain committed to completing your everyday duties and responsibilities throughout the duration of your coursework. We recommend highlighting that you have mapped out your time management, with an emphasis on the effort and research that you have conducted to make sure that your chosen course is aligned with your company’s goals and future roadmap.

As your conversation progresses, there may be the opportunity to share and verbalise that you are committed to progress reports, weekly check-ins or sharing your feedback and learnings with your fellow team members.

Be prepared for a plan B

Sometimes companies may not be in a position to financially support your course, and while this is disheartening and disappointing, when preparing your pitch to your boss, consider what you would do if the answer would be no. Create alternative scenarios where you can negotiate, temporarily take a pay reduction, pay back the money to your company and in the best case, question if they are in a space to contribute and collaborate with you towards your fees to ease the costs on both sides. This is also important when doing your research as to possible payment plans and ways to get your course covered in instalments.

Prepare yourself for the timing of your request, sometimes in the yearly cycle, your company closing the financial year and may need to delay your studies by a few months. It is important to be ready to ask the questions of what can be afforded at the current time to get you enrolled and started as soon as possible.

It is important to demonstrate your loyalty, consideration and very importantly, your initiative when asking your employer to pay for your studies.

Why choose MasterStart? 

Our ethos and method are to align ourselves with Africa’s leading providers of executive and business education, with world-class coursework in a unique and personal online learning environment. Our dedicated enrolment team are equipped to answer all of your programme related questions as you prepare yourself for asking your company to pay for your course. Get in touch with us today

Click below to download our easy to use guide to support you as you prepare to pitch why they should pay for your training – FIND OUT MORE