One of the Durban University of Technology’s (DUT’s) mission is to excel through external engagement that promotes innovation and entrepreneurship through collaboration and partnership.
Ensuring students understand the culture of building entrepreneurship, DUT has been instrumental in helping and guiding young and emerging entrepreneurs through the office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Engagement (RIE) Entrepreneurial Centre and Desk at the Entrepreneurial Centre and Desk Office based at iNdumiso Campus in Pietermaritzburg.
The DUT Communications team spoke to Ntokozo Ngcobo, who is at the forefront of the three entrepreneurial desks, to find out more on how students benefit from such a key centre.
The DUT Midlands Entrepreneurship Centre and Student Desk (MEC) is a newly established department. The MEC was established in March 2018. The current manager of the Entrepreneurial Centre and Desk Office which is Nontokozo Ngcobo.
The Centre offers both theoretical and technical entrepreneurial learning, support and activities to students based in Midlands, neighbouring community and local entrepreneurs. It aspires to become a centre of excellence that produces entrepreneurs and business leaders who build striving and sustainable enterprises through focusing but not limited to technology, agri-processing and arts sectors. The offices are situated at Riverside (satellite) and Indumiso (Midlands) campuses.
According to Ngcobo the goal of the centre has been identified. “We (Centre) are laid with the entrepreneurial responsibilities, so the Centre really needs to get the ball rolling. The Centre has a large number of unemployable students coming out of our institution and a high unemployment rate, particularly for our graduates. We, as a Centre need to intervene with providing entrepreneurial skills to those students who are interested. Those who are entrepreneurs, we need to give them support, provide them with all the necessary tools while they are within the University so that they are able to make something out of their skills learnt at DUT.”
Ngcobo stressed that there’s a huge responsibility on the Centre to ignite the entrepreneurial knowledge to the students. The DUT management has allowed her to have a team, as she started with a group of student volunteers and herself, but now as the centre grows, they now have an operational centre officer, a senior administrator and the rest are students that she works with.
She emphasised that there are quite a few projects that they are working on like the first entrepreneurship market day for students who are interested in starting or have their own businesses. “Inbetween entrepreneurship or market days, the Centre will have workshops, like bootcamps, where students and staff will go off campus for three days to learn more on the entrepreneurship skills from the gurus of the industry,” said Ngcobo.
Also, the Centre has training now which includes technical skills for those who want to be in business, like a short technology course, with external stakeholders, agriculture and art and external stakeholders. “Once they have the skills, give them the business managerial skills and they can go to different, accelerated bootcamps. The Vice-Chancellor and Principal at DUT, Professor Thandwa Mthembu has now committed to providing seed funding which is business start-up capital ranging from R3000 to R50 000, depending what stage of business the entrepreneurs are at. After they receive the selected funding, they will be introduced to mentors to walk the journey with them. From 2020, we will start having external mentors to provide mentorship to students,” she said.
For more information, contact 033-845 9065 or 033-845 9063.
Pictured: Manager of the DUT Midlands Entrepreneurship Centre and Student Desk Ntokozo Ngcobo.