fraycollege is thrilled to announce the launch of the first journalism certificate in South Africa accredited by the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO), and endorsed by industry experts. This innovative programme, developed in collaboration with the South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) and the Fibre Processing and Manufacturing (FP&M) Seta , is aimed at addressing the challenges emerging from the rapid evolution of the industry.

Piloted by fraycollege of Communications, it offers a fully-accredited, industry-approved end-to-end training and learning experience that uniquely equips graduates with the practical, industry-scaled skills needed to succeed in a new media environment. The training prepares journalists for the newsrooms of the future – today.

Chairperson for the SANEF Education and Training Committee, Tshamano Makhadi, says this collaborative process was a huge success. “I think fraycollege came on board at a time when we needed them the most, because we needed a partner that was experienced, with a stellar knowledge of issues around education, training and the media,” he explains.

The training, which runs over 18 months, includes technical skills like writing for different platforms, filming and editing, as well as soft skills like stress and time management. The training will also cover business skills like analytics, SOE and user engagement, which are critical to operate successfully in the newsroom of the future.

Academic head of fraycollege, Dr Sandra Roberts, says the new Occupational Journalism certificate was developed to address the unique challenges of a modern and dynamic newsroom. “The one persistent complaint from editors is that young people enter the newsrooms with university degrees or diplomas but lack the basic practical skills needed to perform and excel at their duties,” she explains. Gaining these skills is also problematic as young journalists struggle to find placement in internships or work-integrated learning programmes. “We’re having a crisis because increasingly the pipeline for journalism isn’t working.”

Makhadi agrees. “In South Africa we find ourselves grappling with a number of challenges, and as SANEF we believe that this qualification will address some of those challenges as a way of keeping journalism in the country alive and thriving,” he says. “We are very passionate about the democracy of our country, and we know that journalists and the media play a very significant role in keeping that democracy alive.” He says this qualification, and programmes like it, will help move the industry forward.

The business of journalism has also changed in recent years. Audience engagement and business skills are no longer just relevant to media managers, but need to infiltrate every level of news organisation. “Business skills are no longer a top-only concern,” says Roberts. “Business is now everyone’s job and everyone’s priority.”

Another challenge is that today’s media environment expects journalists to operate in a multimedia capacity, but existing training often does not equip them to do so. She says this becomes evident when journalists are expected to cross between print and broadcast mediums, but are unable to adapt to the new deliverables. “In short, so many journalists lack the skills that are needed to survive in the global new media landscape,” she says.

These skills, she adds, will not only help graduates thrive as reporters. “Journalism skills are transferable to a number of different industries, and the competencies needed to do well in a news environment are also highly sought-after across the board in a variety of different sectors.”

While other journalism courses and training exist, the occupational certificate aims to bridge the gaps often seen between theory and practice, and between the classroom and the workspace. Entry requirements are a Matric certificate, computer literacy and English competency, which means journalism training becomes more accessible to those who do not meet the requirements to study through a university.

The certificate course offers an end-to-end training and learning experience, complete with integrated workspace learning and a supervised internship within an established newsroom.

fraycollege has, in partnership and consultation with industry bodies and media experts, developed the course with one goal in mind – to create a new industry standard and change the news environment for the better, while preparing media practitioners to meet current and future sector needs. “This is also the perfect qualification for a disrupted study environment, like the one we’re faced during the Covid-19 pandemic, because it was designed with integrated remote learning in mind,” Roberts explains.

The course was also designed with the pitfalls of online learning in mind. “Journalism is a practical industry, and requires human interaction and inter- and intrapersonal skills, and this aspect of learner development is often lacking in online training,” says Roberts. “We knew we had to focus on the whole learner, and not just the theoretical knowledge, which is why this training also offers guidance, mentorship and continued coaching.”

Learners will report to a news editor, learn line management and optimum real-world functioning in an interactive, deadline-driven and outcome-focused environment.

Makhadi says this course, and other short courses like the ones offered by fraycollege, are important to ensure that journalists in South Africa are equipped to take the industry forward. “This programme was developed by some of the greatest minds we have in the country within the journalism space,” he says. “It’s a fantastic programme and will have great benefits, not only for individual journalists but for the industry itself.”

He urges editors to support and advance staff members within their different newsrooms to further their learning. “This is an important part of the ongoing development of our industry,” he adds.

In this way, fraycollege remains dedicated to its goal of developing the diverse newsrooms of the future, and the media practitioners who will drive the industry in coming years by empowering the newsroom leaders of tomorrow.