The next three paragraphs are products of insightful reflections from the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) and Co-creation Hub’s ongoing IT Talent Gap Assessment in Nigeria. The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) collaborated with CcHUB in 2016 to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the IT talent gap in the country, with a particular emphasis on the demand and supply sides of the IT talent spectrum and on elucidating the discrepancies between what IT professionals are taught and what employers need. Insightful information was uncovered and compiled here for your perusal. Six years after the initial assessment, on August 16th, 2022, NITDA and CcHUB issued a joint press release announcing that it had taken a longitudinal approach to the assessment by re-teaming with CcHUB to conduct a follow-up on the 2016 assessment, but with new data and insights, a more rigorous study approach, and a better grasp of the shifts in both the demand for and supply of technology talent.

Many insights have begun to crystallize from the interviews and conversations with various stakeholders, particularly the heads of the alternative technology education platforms, as the assessment nears completion. To what extent the assumed shortage of IT talent in Nigeria affects the country’s ability to compete in the global market is a central question in this analysis. The results of the evaluation show that there is, in fact, a shortage of IT professionals, most of whom fall under the category of “senior tech talents.” Several “Alternative Tech Skills Training Platforms” have emerged in the last decade, and this analysis shows that they have contributed to a steady output of young people trained in various forms of digital technology, both coding and non-coding. Even though there is a lot of training available, only a small percentage of trainees actually get to apply their newfound knowledge in meaningful internships and apprenticeships. The data shows that those who are given the chance to hone their abilities and take on challenging projects that help them advance their skills eventually become Senior Developers/Engineers whose services are in high demand. Those few senior tech talents who are in high demand often can’t help all those who have no opportunity to hone or sharpen their skills. It is either they move out of Nigeria for work or have multiple jobs.

In addition, it is noteworthy that the majority of the students sampled at Nigerian universities reported engaging in substantial extracurricular self-study in the area of computer programming. The majority of the undergraduates surveyed so far learned how to code, conduct data analytics, and use the cloud independently, using open source and other inexpensive “pay to learn” platforms. University and polytechnic students alike favored YouTube as their primary IT skills learning outlet. Platforms such as Coursera, Free code camp, Udemy, and Udacity were also very popular among the students. This further corroborates the observation that many young Nigerians make an effort to learn IT skills independently using available resources, beyond the scope of the conventional alternative technology education training platforms and the conventional technology related school curricula being delivered in schools. Because IT skills are honed through “doing” and not just “learning,” these groups of independently learning students also fall into the category of those who need post knowledge acquisition support and challenge to sharpen their skills. The scarcity of non-technical skills resources for IT professionals is another important factor to consider. Based on the findings, most IT professionals’ lack of smart skills prevents them from landing valuable positions, regardless of how proficient they may be technically. The interview data revealed that most IT talents lack basic people skills like good communication, empathy, and negotiation. One’s ability to communicate, relate to others, and engage with the world is just as important as one’s technical proficiency. Because technical expertise is useless in a vacuum, the ability to communicate effectively and build productive working relationships with others is crucial for the success of tech talents.

This is a very significant question to ponder. How can we help the vast numbers of unsharpened IT talents who have the potential to become highly skilled professionals capable of leading complex projects at home and abroad? Providing junior talents in IT with access to mentors is essential for building a strong IT talent ecosystem. Since only a small fraction of tech talent makes it to senior status and is sufficiently honed to become senior IT talent, those who have made it to this point are typically too busy juggling projects and serving multiple ecosystems at once to devote time to formal mentorship relationships and structures. In order to address this issue, the major players in Nigeria’s IT talent development ecosystem must work together to create a comprehensive mentoring plan for up-and-coming IT professionals. Also, while the apprenticeship model of learning and growing one’s trade is common in Nigeria, it is still on the fringes of the information technology (IT) workforce. The few existing examples of IT-related apprenticeship programs in Nigeria, such as Microsoft’s TEK expert Technology Apprenticeship program, which was launched in 2019, have been extremely successful and provide direct opportunities for businesses to invest in the apprentices’ development of the skills they need to function.

As a conclusion, we need to become deliberate about creating opportunities that help the talents to test, sharpen, and optimize their acquired skills through apprenticeships, tailored made internships, and other post training support, in addition to the massive IT skills training going on in the country by the alternative technology education platforms and NITDA.

About NITDA

The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) is committed to implementing the National Digital economy policy for digital Nigeria. Their mandate is to create a framework for the planning, research, development, standardization, application, coordination, monitoring, evaluation and regulation of Information Technology practices in Nigeria. The priorities of the Agency are Developmental Regulation, Digital Literacy and Skills, Solid Infrastructure, Service Infrastructure, Digital Services Development and Promotion, Software Infrastructure, Digital Society and Emerging Technologies & Indigenous Content Development and Adoption

About CcHUB 

Co-creation Hub (CcHUB) launched Nigeria’s first open living lab for technologists, entrepreneurs, tech companies, investors and hackers in 2010 to accelerate the application of social capital and technology for economic prosperity. The hub has since expanded to include an umbrella of pan-African innovation enablers that includes the CcHUB Design Lab in Rwanda iHub and eLimu in Kenya, Growth Capital by CcHUB and CcHub Syndicate. All CcHUB companies contribute to stimulating innovation and technology application towards achieving social impact across diverse sectors including education, public health, digital security and governance.

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