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SPECIAL FOCUS on Tek Experts: Youth unemployment amidst a pandemic – IT to the rescue?

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Tek Experts
Youth unemployment has remained a hydra-headed problem of the world, especially for developing countries like Nigeria, where the rate of unemployment has been soaring year-on-year and most recently pegged at 38% in the second quarter of 2018.

Even though there are no recent statistics, it is safe to say that the youth unemployment situation has now become more dire in 2020, especially with the current global pandemic.

With the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the business world and most global economies, various sectors of the economy and industries stand greatly threatened including the financial and technology industry in Nigeria.

Recently, companies like Andela, the software engineering talent company, laid off 135 of its staff across four locations in Africa including Nigeria, while the ride hailing company, Uber, announced earlier this month, that it was laying off 3,500 people and consolidating operations in 40 of its offices globally.

You are fired

You are fired – Image credit: CareerAddict

Some financial institutions like Access Bank have also had to announce austerity measures like salary cuts to thwart mass layoffs.

Another financial institution, Ren Money has had to lay off 391 sales agents, claiming that new technology was being introduced to change the company’s mode of operation. These changes include the introduction of an app, which the company said would make field sales agents redundant.

Many have speculated that the timing of the layoffs, which came just before the commencement of the lockdown, is suspect. They see the explanation given by RenMoney as a cop out to the fact that the company simply did not want to incur additional salary costs for field agents who would be sitting at home, unable to work during the lockdown.

Needless to say, the pandemic has wreaked havoc on the business world with massive layoffs here and there, but it is common knowledge that even before the pandemic, Nigeria has had a huge challenge with creating jobs for its teeming youthful populace. This has been a key content in Nigerian discourse by government, experts and the private sector alike. It is certainly a major conversation that many reputable companies like PwC have contributed to.

According to an Advisory Partner and Chief Economist at PwC Nigeria, Andrew Nevin, “being young in Nigeria is very challenging. Graduates from universities have a great deal of difficulty in getting jobs and getting established. People that didn’t go to university, who should be getting vocational training, are not getting it. They’re not getting into formal employment. Given the scale of Nigeria and its relevance on the continent, it’s a challenge not just for Nigeria, but for the whole of Africa.”

There are systemic problems behind unemployment, Nevin points out.  “Oil, over the last 30 years in this country, has meant people have taken their eye off other industries, especially technology. There’s a lack of diversification that we have. The good news is that everyone recognizes it, and they recognize it’s a crisis; people are discussing youth unemployment, the need for youth to be employed in a bid to have something gainful to do.”

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Nevin further opines, “The most important thing is, we need the private sector to grow in the next decade, 10-15 times larger to really make a dent in unemployment and poverty in Nigeria and the biggest sectors that needs to grow in Nigeria is real estate and technology.”

Truly, as Nevin says, the IT industry is a worthy enabler of socioeconomic development and can greatly help in decreasing youth unemployment numbers in civil societies like Nigeria. The current cohort of youth we have in Nigeria today is the largest cohort ever and will be critical to the sustainable development of this planet. IT offers tremendous potential to enable sustainable employment opportunities for youth.

Hiring during times of COVID-19

There seems to be hope after all because despite the dire straits that COVID-19 has left many global industries in, some IT companies continue to hire at an unending pace. Most notable of such companies is Tek Experts, a multinational IT support and professional services company with operations in seven countries namely Bulgaria, China, Costa Rica, Nigeria, Vietnam, USA and its latest addition, Rwanda.

Positioning itself as a major employer of labour and harbinger of a new digital dispensation, Tek Experts provides technical support and professional services for some of the world’s largest IT companies. With 7,000 employees across seven global offices, the company has built a reputation for deep technical expertise and providing exceptional customer experiences.

With more people than ever working from home during this period, Tek Experts says, tech support – the service that they provide – has never been more vital, hence the need to increase staff strength by recruiting more talent.

The company began operations in Nigeria in April 2018, promising to employ 400 staff by the end of its first year and 1,000 staff by the end of its second year. As at May 2020, Tek Experts has employed 1,350 staff and is still upscaling its business and plans to increase its staff strength to 2,000 people by the end of 2020.

Speaking about the ramp up and future plans for the company, the Country Manager for Tek Experts Nigeria, Lars Johannisson, says that the company’s growth is unprecedented and unlike any other in today’s Nigerian tech industry. “We are growing at an exponential rate and this comes on the heels of the need to grow our operations to meet the teeming demands of our global IT clients” he said.

“Nigeria has a wealth of amazing young talent and we are truly passionate about identifying those talented individuals, training a huge number of them to be IT experts so they can compete successfully in the future of work. We also have a unique opportunity to reduce the unemployment rate of youths in the country.”

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To accommodate this increasing workforce and new service lines, the company recently moved into a brand-new office building called Everty One, at Oniru, Victoria Island. The building, owned by Tek Expert’s sister company, Everty, is a 12-story, state-of-the-art building which will serve as the main headquarters of the company.

The purchase of this building and this ramp up, is also in fulfillment of the promises made by Tek Expert’s founder, Yaniv Natan at the April 2018 launch event of the company in Nigeria where he said “we would hire 300 staff in our first year of operations and gradually ramp up to 2000 by the second year of operations. We have come into Nigeria to stay and do good business and we are committed to making this happen by nurturing IT talent in Nigerian youth thereby growing the IT industry and reducing unemployment.”

Also worthy of note is that Tek Experts has not only fulfilled promises made, but it has surpassed them. In just two years of its operations in Nigeria, the company has created hundreds of entry level and experienced jobs in the Nigerian IT industry for graduates specializing in STEM courses.  These entry jobs are especially important because it gives our fresh graduates an opportunity to work without the job experience that many other companies request for.

In these two years of operations as well, the company was voted by reputable career platform, Jobberman, as one of the top 10 IT companies to work for in Nigeria and one of the best 100 companies to work for in Nigeria.  This is definitely a huge feat as the company is profiled among other companies that have been in operations for much longer than their meagre two years.

Training and development is also a key component of Tek Experts’ career development program. The company says the intensive training is a necessity because it’s this exposure to skills development that sets them up for success within their job roles.

Upon employment, the organisation trains its staff for 6 full weeks staff using Microsoft-approved curriculums and training programs. Staff are also individually trained and upskilled regularly at intervals using a proprietary tool that identifies areas for improvement and technical skill development.

Tek Experts is currently hiring Technical Support Engineers with experience in technologies like Dynamics, Microsoft O365 and Azure. IT enthusiasts with a University degree and with little or no experience are encouraged to visit the company website at www.tek-experts.com to apply. The company has moved its entire recruitment process online in efforts to adhere to Federal and local social distancing laws during the COVID-19 pandemic alone.

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Diversity and Inclusion

Tek Experts is also passionate about promoting diversity and inclusion not just in Nigeria but in the global IT industry. Last year, in a whitepaper produced by the company themed, ‘Achieving Gender Balance: Views from Across the IT Industry,’ Tek Experts highlighted a wide range of issues identified by women in the Nigerian IT industry. These issues range from persistent pay gap, lack of career growth opportunities for women, recruitment bias, general lack of inclusion and diversity in the IT industry amongst many others.

The survey, completed by over 2,000 women worldwide, was conducted in 5 countries where the company operated in at the time namely: Bulgaria, Nigeria, Costa Rica, USA and Vietnam. The white paper also proposed actionable solutions to the problems raised by women in IT and has called on the IT industry to collaborate in the achievement of these objectives.

Speaking at the launch of the whitepaper, the company’s Chief Executive Officer, Naama Saar said, “At Tek Experts, we are deeply passionate about inclusion and diversity in the workplace and we’ve worked tirelessly to ensure we are a reflection of what we preach. We have implemented recruitment policies to achieve gender balance. So, we not only talk the talk; we also walk the walk. Our global leadership team is almost entirely composed of women who have proven through their amazing track record in the industry that they deserve a seat at the table.”

To further promote diversity and inclusion in the industry, Tek Experts, in collaboration with Microsoft, last year launched a program in Nigeria called the LEAP Engineering Acceleration Program (LEAP).

Tek Experts

Tek Experts

LEAP is an immersive, 16-week IT training and internship program providing female youths with real-world experience through development and project management apprenticeships

Last year, 14 ladies who were trained in the first LEAP cohort have now begun a career in IT and are now working as Technical Support Engineers supporting Microsoft technologies at Tek Experts Nigeria.

Expanding its business frontiers

Tek Experts is part of multinational group of companies called YNV Group. YNV Group operates in sectors including tech, education and real estate, and has been expanding its portfolio over the past few years  to include Everty, a global real estate business and owners of the Everty One building located in Victoria Island; and elev8,  a global IT training and education company, which is due to open a new academy in Nigeria this summer.

YNV Group sees huge potential in Nigeria and Africa and is therefore investing in substantial projects through its various companies in the country.

This is certainly a welcome development as these new companies are poised to hire staff that will further help the group achieve its objective of stemming youth unemployment in the country.

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