Most tech companies experience or anticipate a paucity of talents. And this is not only applicable to new startups unable to afford the services of experienced people, especially in terms of remuneration but also big firms that have to compete for the few qualified ones available.
Apparently, this challenge is not location-specific, and Nigeria is not excluded. To an extent, it is currently being addressed through the proliferation of different training institutes that specialise in tech skills. But it seems their impact is not widespread.
Consequently, the unavailability of skilled individuals to fill available positions also contributes to the country’s unemployment rate.
However, there seems to be more than one way for young people to develop coveted skills. Odoemena Augustine Chinonso, a Forbes-trained entrepreneur and his team of young techpreneurs, believes exposing young people to tech skills and mentorship is one of such ways.
Co-founded with two other techpreneurs, Teens Can Blog is focused on providing on-demand technology skills particularly for the young population comprising secondary school students and undergraduates. And this idea was kickstarted by leveraging the founders' technical knowledge.
“We took it upon ourselves to tackle the challenge of over-dependence on the government by changing undergraduates’ mentality towards success and self-dependence from our little community. We had only Abia State University as our space, and we began to run free courses for students on blogging, web development, public speaking and other skills that could fetch them a living,” Odoemena says.
The success of the first masterclass assured them that they could fulfil their vision. Soon after, the founders decided to move beyond the website to physical training.
“We started reaching out to student communities, student heads, vice-chancellors, universities and high schools across Nigeria because we have a sophisticated team of experts in blogging, programming, digital marketing skills, public speaking, content writing, graphic design, communication skills, and the like, who work with us full-time to reach out to many people and ensure they are being mentored," he explains.
Of choices and mentorship
Many similar companies compete in the business of providing on-demand technology skills training for young people, but Odoemena believes Teens Can Blog has an edge.
"A unique feature is that we don’t just teach them, we also mentor them. We create a platform to supervise their growth according to the category of what was learnt.”
He adds that unlike most of their competitors, Teens Can Blog presents students with many options and does not restrict them to a single technical skill, for example, web design.
"We give them options and allow them to venture into any tech skills they wish. And in a situation where there's a request for a skill that is not on the list of options, we contact the person in charge of that section to take care of it," he explains.
Diversification for survival
Thus far, Teens Can Blog has survived on the founders' investment and revenue inflow, training and mentoring over 500 young people within six months of its launch. But Odoemena admits that current revenue inflows are not encouraging given the current economic situation.
Therefore, other channels of revenue generation are explored as a means of diversification.
“Asides training young people, we get calls from companies and organisations to either train their staff, run an internship, or build a solution for them. Subsequently, we leverage different business channels to create revenue, like solving problems and creating solutions through Fiverr and building websites for startups.”
Admittedly, businesses are run to make a profit, but Odoemena maintains that Teens Can Blog’s goal goes beyond that.
“We are not only looking at gains in terms of finance, but also in dignity and prestige, and international and national acknowledgement. Asides from monetary profit, we also have garnered a huge source of prestige around ourselves."
This explains why the amount charged per training and mentorship that spans six months is quite meagre, in the founder’s opinion.
"For institutions, we charge ₦10,000 ($25.71) per skill, and mentorship lasts for six months for all participants. Within the period, participants will be given tasks and in the process be able to build their brand. This amount is quite subsidised when compared with those independently run by tech companies,” he reveals.
While the focus remains to create a platform for young people to be able to achieve an entrepreneurial brand, and equip them with skills to shift their focus from getting job opportunities from the government, Teens Can Blog also gives expression to those that are interested in becoming trainers.
According to Odoemena, those interested in volunteering are given separate training while they are placed in a department on the team to be observed. Once a volunteer’s performance is found impressive, they participate in real tasks to boost their confidence.
However, the founder takes pride in how the team knows exactly where its audience is and how focused they are on serving them through the B2B and B2C models.
“Our focus is strategic. We are looking at areas that are less digitally inclined. We're starting from Northeast of Nigeria, and we already have three communities on our hands, but still expecting more.”
During these times, many businesses are plagued with funding challenges and Teens Can Blog is no different.
Although logistics is a cause for concern, Odoemena says trainers have proceeded with mentoring while restrategising for further training outreaches.
Nevertheless, the immediate future looks busy for them as they take steps towards engaging relevant stakeholders and potential business partners.
“We are currently working on creating campus ambassadors in all Nigerian universities to make our outreach rapid. We have written to over 20 Nigerian universities with a request to train their undergraduates, and about 15 have signed and agreed to our proposal. Our community outreach proposals have had different philanthropists and organisations proposing to feature and partner with us."
Odoemena reasons that the eventual success of businesses like Teens Can Blog will prove to the Nigerian tech ecosystem -- with previous experiences of distrust in young startups -- that it is possible to give huge value at a token.