Young Durban student lauded for winning design innovation

When Durban’s Velani Michael Khambule was handpicked as part of a high-performing group of students for a pioneering programme at REGENT Business school's* new iLeadLAB, the Employability Unit, he had no idea how life-changing the experience would be.

The 24-year-old Chesterville resident has been lauded for his design innovation after conceptualising and producing a prototype for a kettle that is digitally-controlled by an Arduino board. Khambule and nine other students were put through an intensive 10-day bootcamp at REGENT Business School's iLeadLAB – an innovative education programme aimed at bridging the gap between graduates and 21st century employability.

REGENT Business School Managing Director, Dr Ahmed Shaikh, says the new creative hub is a response to a growing global demand by employers who require employees with work-ready skills and who can make a meaningful contribution to the organisation they are employed at. This includes having exemplary inter- and intra-personal skills and tools such as empathy, a collaborative mindset, effective communication and the ability to solve problems creatively and can boldly innovate in technologically-evolving 4IR world of work.

“According to the International Labour Organisation, there are a quarter of a billion unemployed graduates globally – that’s 250 million young people around the world who have qualifications but who are unable to enter the formal economy,” explains Shaikh. “Imagine the positive impact on their localised communities and societies if we could transform them into entrepreneurs! Innovation in education is one of the key drivers for us at REGENT Business School, and the iLeadLAB is aimed at empowering young people and mid-career individuals with the core skills and competencies required by employers today.”

During the 10-day bootcamp, Khambule and nine others students - Ntokozo Gumede, Bryson Pather, Victor Mucube, Sahil Bahorah, Amanda Blose, Irfaan Rangila, Mbali Lihle, Sinethemba Maduna and Junaid Khan - received all-round, hands-on training that included the art of successful communication, digital literacy, 3D and 4D printing, the use of AI, robots, VR, software in business, art and environment, creative design thinking, work-readiness skills that included CV writing and interview skills, the concept of EQ and relevance in the world of work, critical thinking, new product development, as well as marketing and sales. Journaling by the participants provided an opportunity to reflect on their thoughts and experiences. They were also tasked with building their own viable project based on what they had learned.

For Khambule, who graduated with a BCom degree from REGENT Business School this year, the experience was like no other. “I always wanted to be employed. My exposure at the iLeadLAB has changed this perspective. It brought out a creative side of me that I didn’t even know that I had! For the first time, I am now thinking of entrepreneurship.”

The 10-day programme was gruelling, but the pressure intensified on the final day when the students competed against each other and pitched their project to a Dragon’s Den-style group of panellists. In the end, the judges, consisting of business and industry game-changer, namely Mr Phakamile Madonsela, Ms Farah Ally, Mr Celumusa Khumalo and Ms Vasie Govender, were blown away by Khambule’s digitally-operated kettle.

“This is certainly something that can go to market immediately,” says panellist, Farah Ally of Fukula Consultants, an agency that seeks financial support for promising start-ups. “Khambule’s kettle can be developed and sold immediately. Innovation doesn’t necessarily have to be driven at changing the world. Innovation should make a meaningful, positive daily difference in localised communities too, and I think this product is going to change many lives.” Ally will now spearhead the project to give it wings, helping secure funding for production and assisting Khambule with a business plan, and sales and marketing strategies.

“The current pace of innovation and change is explosive,” explains Shaikh. “The world needs graduates like Khambule who are able to flex their creative and critical muscles to address challenges. This is what our iLeadLAB has set out to achieve albeit in a small way, here at the tip of Southern Africa. It’s no longer enough to upskill. We need to upskill by innovatively multi-skilling.”

More details about REGENT Business School's iLeadLAB, the Employability Unit is available at www.regent.ac.za