Nigerian Odetola Olashile Oluwapelumi has filled out her share of job applications. The young, new mother graduated with a Communication and Language degree, but says finding work that put her education to use was a struggle.
“I’ve gone for different [job] interviews, but in the long run – they just find something to disqualify you and that’s it,” Oluwapelumi says.
Then, the 31-year old heard about a digital skills training program through her church, that offers youth demand-driven internet and communications technology skills (ICT), then links them to ICT and ICT-related job opportunities. The African Development Bank and Microsoft’s Coding for Employment was set up to be available online, on mobile devices, as well as in centers of excellence classrooms in Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire – and in Nigeria.
Oluwapelumi signed up for the Coding for Employment platform, completing a selection of free technical courses such as web development, design, data science and digital marketing. Soon after, she says, she got hired to do remote work for an online image company.
“The training has been beneficial to me,” Oluwapelumi says. “As a nursing mother…[being] able to work online from home…has helped me to be able to support the family.”
Oluwapelumi is one of more than 23,000 youth who have completed Coding For Employment’s month-long courses since its launch in 2018. The initiative is the Bank’s response to global digital transformation moving at such a fast pace that disadvantaged communities, including African unemployed youth, are at high risk of exclusion and marginalization. And the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t deterring the program from its mission: to help bridge the ICT skills gap among unemployed youth and help them be innovators in the global digital economy.
“The impact of COVID-19 is challenging the convention of a 9-to-5 office job – pushing the world to adapt to remote work driven by digital communication,” says Martha Phiri, Director of the Bank’s Human Capital Department. “Digital skills offered through Coding 4 Employment are equipping African youth with the tools to be more attractive job candidates, and the initiative is part of the solution helping African nations build back better, post-pandemic,” she added.
COVID-related school closures, national lockdowns and restriction of movement led Coding for Employment to adapt its in-person training classes to an online eLearning platform. The program collaborated with Microsoft to train online class facilitators. Last week, Coding for Employment celebrated its first group students in Nigeria who completed the online program with a virtual graduation ceremony.
Thirty one-year-old Martha Oyanta Daniel and 26-year-old Esther Ayuba graduated from the Coding for Employment program in northern Nigeria, at a center of excellence at Gombe State University in 2019.
After completing the course, Daniel and Ayuba started up an NGO called Eagles Advocacy. The NGO teaches young girls digital skills in northern Nigeria, a region often depicted in news reports as fighting off Boko Haram insurgencies and where traditions based on interpretations of religion discourage women and girls from taking on formal education or work. Despite this environment. Eagles Advocacy has put 500 girls in Gombe state through the digital skills program. Daniel and Ayuba have also teamed up with local, private sector partners and NGOs with a goal of training 1,000 girls in their community.