In recent times the growth of technology in Africa has witnessed a major shift thanks to the outstanding development in the tech industry in Africa, Many Africans now have more access to quality training that helps in developing their skills. Right now, things are about to take another interesting turn with the emergence of alternative tech schools like (AltSchool) ‘becoming a thing’ in Nigeria.
According to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report, the demand for software engineers between 2020 and 2030 is projected to increase by 22%. This figure however is bigger than the 4% average projections for other careers in the United State.
Nigerian alternative school for training African tech talent (AltSchool Africa) has raised a $1 million pre-seed funding to scale its operation across the African continent. The round has Nigerian entertainer, Folarin Falana (Falz); Flutterwave Founder, Olugbenga GB Agboola; Paystack Founder Shola Akinlade; Nigerian musician and rapper, Akitoye Balogun (Ajebutter); Pledges, Nestcoin, and ODBA VC, as investors.
In Lagos, Nigeria which is without a doubt Africa’s tech startup capital, the tech ecosystem has continued to see the outflows of tech talent especially software engineers who are relocating to Canada and other European countries in search of better pay, opportunities and career development.
But in the same Lagos, there are tech institutions like Andela, Decagon and Dev Career who are established to train individuals who are keenly interested in becoming software engineers. Some institutions like these train their students without collecting any tuition fee whatsoever.
Andela has been critical in training and empowering tech talent and placing them outside the continent, but the startup is changing it’s business model to focus on becoming a marketplace rather than a training platform, hence the need for a platform like AltSchool Africa who wants to ensure the growth of tech talent from junior to mid-level professionals.
What is AltSchool?
AltSchool Africa is an unconventional school for individuals looking to gain technical skills and kickstart a career in Software Engineering. AltSchool Africa takes a unique approach to learning by teaching courses directly connected with the selected track.
The school was founded by CEO Adewale Yusuf with Akintunde Sultan and Opeyemi Awoyemi in October 2021 with a simple mission to provide an education that equips students with skills and a certificate, all within a year.
This mission led to a partnership with the Michael and Cecilia Ibru University. Under this partnership, graduates of the programme get a diploma certificate at the end. To achieve this, AltSchool tutors participants for nine months, followed by a three-month internship.
The launch of AltSchool has recorded significant success and support so far from the local and international tech community. Many donors have shown their interest in paying the application fee for interested applicants. An altruistic action that has now led to over 8,000 enrollments from over 20 countries including Nigeria, Uganda, Ghana, Botswana and other African countries.
Unlike the regular learning institutions that focused on providing tech skills, AltSchool adopts an income-sharing model where students do not have to pay for the tuition until they get a job. However, they have to pay an application fee of ₦10,000 ($20).
How AltSchool Started its journey
The Startup founder, Yusuf Adewale believes the traditional schooling system in Nigeria is insufficient to get university graduates decent jobs.
So what did he do? He started AltSchool to provide a solution as an online school with a curriculum to upskill non-technical individuals with technical and soft skills while partnering with higher institutions to provide diploma certificates.
“You might need a BSc if you want to be a doctor or nurse and some of these other skills. But when it comes to being a software engineer or digital skills, you really don’t,” said Adewale.
“We need to find a shortcut for people, whereby they will be able to make money and provide for their family and add value to the economy.
That’s one of the reasons we launched AltSchool because if a lot of people can have marketable skills, then I think we can solve a massive problem in the market.”
So In 2020, Yusuf decided to try and work on the idea of building a physical campus where he and his team would train software engineers to get international opportunities. Yusuf met with educational stakeholders at a public university in Ife, (OAU) but the idea didn’t work out.
After that, the team focused on scaling another startup TalentQL backed by Techstars in 2021.
TalentQL launched products such as Pipeline, which trained mid-level engineers, turning them into senior engineers and placing them in international companies. However, upon further research, Yusuf figured out what needed to be done to make his past idea work: a remote-centric approach. An idea which eventually worked for the founder.
What they are saying…
Interested Participants in the program would most importantly need to have a high school certificate and be computer literate.
When students apply to the program, they are provided with a home study kit in preparation for an assessment test. Those admitted into the school, meeting a pass mark of 85%, will take a software engineering course with three tracks: frontend engineering, backend engineering and cloud engineering.
It’s a one-year program where students take classes for nine months (three semesters) followed by a three-month internship at local tech companies to gain experience.
“We’ve signed up some of the best startups on the market, and that’s one of the most exciting things about what we’re doing,” he says.
Needless to say, AltSchool also makes provision for those who don’t get admitted into its program. Such individuals can access the platform’s first-semester content for free and practice. If they stick to the end of the three-month curriculum, AltSchool will provide avenues for them to complete the entire nine-month program.
“We realize that the most important thing is skills. We genuinely want to give people the skills. And we know that not everybody that passed the assessment will make it to the end of school, nor are they better than those who failed,” he said. “We’ll create a situation where if some can stick to the end of this semester, we’ll find a way for them to complete the programme.”
What’s next for AltSchool?
AltSchool plans to use the investment to build its content and curriculum, growth, technology infrastructure and community concept, where students will meet offline to network and learn together.
The tech startup will launch its Schools of Product, Data, and Blockchain in Q2 2022.
When these schools launch, they will offer courses in product design, product management, and product marketing, amongst others.