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TalentQL launches AltSchool Africa To Train Entry Level Tech Talent For Free
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TalentQL launches AltSchool Africa To Train Entry Level Tech Talent For Free 

The programme is the startup’s latest attempt to create a tech talent pipeline following the launch of pipeline, it’s mentorship and upskilling program for senior developers. 

By Omotayo Olutekunbi

TalentQL, an African digital talent business, has launched AltSchool Africa today, October 21, 2021. Following the launch of Pipeline, the startup’s mentorship and upskilling program for senior engineers, the program is the startup’s next attempt to build a tech talent pipeline.

A number of organizations have sprung up to supply tech talent for startups as Africa’s tech industry has evolved. After an initial focus on developing entry-level talent, led by companies like Andela, the need for senior talent forced entry-level engineers to take a backseat for a while.

As senior engineers gain experience, they become more valuable to companies outside of Africa, which has a knock-on impact. Without the capacity to compete on salary with these overseas firms, as well as the option to relocate, local businesses confront a significant challenge in attracting the best people.

With AltSchool Africa, TalentQL is attempting to overcome this challenge. Participants would receive software development instruction for nine months before completing a three-month internship. They receive a diploma certificate at the conclusion. To offer these certificates, the startup is currently collaborating with Michael and Cecilia Ibru’s University.

Adewale Yusuf, co-founder and CEO of TalentQL, revealed the reason behind awarding certificates in an interview with Techpoint Africa.  “We’re giving them diplomas because a lot of people can be good but cannot apply to certain opportunities because they do not have a certificate. So we’re giving them skills and a certificate.”

Participants do not need a technical background to apply for the program, which is available to anybody over the age of 16. Furthermore, no tuition expenses are necessary, albeit participants must pay a $20 (10,000) application fee.

After submitting an application, the applicant will receive a study kit to help them prepare for the assessment. The goal is to ensure that not only educated people, but also those who are tenacious, get in. Front-end engineering, back-end engineering, and cloud engineering are the three learning paths available.

“There’s going to be a lot of self learning. We’re going to do online and then we have something we call community pairing learning. So for example, if you’re from Osun State, we are going to get people from Osun State to meet and learn together a few times every month. We’ve also designed the program in such a way that you can still be a part of it even if you have a job or are a student.”

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for software engineers would increase by 22% between 2020 and 2030, above the 4 percent average for all occupations. This poses a unique challenge as well as an opportunity for Africa’s digital skill development.

Already, company founders on the continent are fighting to retain personnel who are being courted by Western corporations. As a result, it is critical that a consistent pipeline be developed to replace the void left by individuals who leave.

As Andela’s pivot showed, startups are not exactly lining up to recruit entry level talents with there being a preference for senior engineers. 

Unlike Andela that kept engineers on their payroll, AltSchool would only be training software engineers so how are these graduates supposed to gain the experience they need to become senior engineers?

Rather than charge a fee, the startup would utilise an income sharing agreement (ISA) similar to that used by Lambda school. Consequently, students only get to pay after they get a job.

Yusuf reveals that the internships are one way to help them gain experience while they would be supported until they get a job. He expressed hope that participants perform well enough during these internships that they would be offered permanent placements.

One way to help these talents gain experience could be by exploring partnerships with companies like Enye, a non-profit that connects developers to founders looking to build out their products. This helps the developer gain experience building a product while the founder gets access to certified talents. 

Another benefit of enrolling in AltSchool would be the fact that it provides a structured curriculum. This is particularly important when you consider that the majority of African software engineers are self-taught. While this is admirable, they are often unable to pass tests by international clients, a challenge that TalentQL faced while trying to match senior engineers with international clients.

While speaking to Yusuf, you get the feeling that AltSchool Africa is not just another attempt at entrepreneurship for him but a mission. As he says, this is about democratizing access for every African.

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