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May 18, 2022
Building a new developer workforce: How coding is helping the entire sector retrain for the future
As Middle Eastern nations seek to pivot from petrochemicals to knowledge-based economies, upskilling the region's IT and technology workforce more and more

Photo: SE Factory (via Facebook)

As Middle Eastern nations seek to pivot from petrochemicals to knowledge-based economies, upskilling the region’s IT and technology workforce more and more important.

While high spending on infrastructure and starting a business tends to dominate the headlines, some efforts to build IT skills and capacity are also underway, where coding is an area of ​​significant investment.

Based on Salim AbidGoogle’s regional head of developer ecosystem in MENA, Google has trained more than 700,000 developers across MENA by 2021, 35% of whom are women.

Participants were trained by Googlers and Google Developer Specialists; local experts participated in events organized by the Google Developer Team, Female technician communities, student clubs Google Developers, and other local organizations.

“With the rise of digital transformation over the past few years, it is clear that technology skills have become essential in every part of a business and across the national economy,” Abid said. , Abid emphasizes the importance of skills related to cutting-edge technology, such as machine learning, user experience/user interface, and programming,

SEE: Software development is changing again. These are the skills companies are looking for

“It’s always been a priority to provide individuals with greater access to workshops and programs that help them gain the skills they need to grow their businesses or thrive in their careers.”

An example of this can be seen during the launch of Tuwaiq Academy in Saudi Arabia, when more than 1,000 candidates received training in Google’s Machine Learning APIs and Google’s Workspace, along with training in Leadership includes design thinking and agile development.

They have also developed their Google Developer Expert (GDE) network within MENA, a group that Abid describes as “active and talented leaders in the industry in all things cutting-edge technology.” , especially machine learning and programming.” The network has expanded over the past few years from 19 to 33 professionals. By 2021, this team has trained more than 150,000 developers in cutting-edge technologies through online training and talk.

Other tech giants have also entered this space. In February, Apple opened The first all-female developer academy in Riyadh and Microsoft already operates in the UAE One million people write Arabic code the initiative closed last year.

Meanwhile, IBM, Cisco, Meta and other leading Silicon Valley companies are supporting Coders HQ, a new project led by the UAE designed to create a community of programmers in the country. The move after a Notification in 2021, the Emirate will issue Golden Visas to 100,000 of the world’s best programmers.

Along with these eye-catching initiatives, smaller grassroots programs are also underway.

In Lebanon, SE Factory launched in 2015, offering 14-week training programs to bridge the gap between graduate skill sets and industry needs. Social enterprises identify the need to focus on practical software development skills, with an emphasis on critical thinking, soft skills training and helping programmers access the job market.

Programming is a well-paying job, which means that once you’re in the system, you’ll reach middle-income status. From a social impact perspective, that’s very important in a country like Lebanon.

Seven years on, 250 students have graduated from SE Factory’s Beirut program, with a 90% employment rate. Zeina Saab, Co-Founder & COO of SE Factory said: “In a sense it’s not a huge number, but what we do is train for the job – that’s our KPI. I”.

Support school-age initiatives

Hannan Moti left a promising career in financial services late last year to launch iCodejran online coding and robotics academy that offers face-to-face classes for students ages 5 and up, in Arabic and English.

Moti, who was born in Dubai, became a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer at the age of 16. In the past, he has worked professionally to introduce school students to coding. “When it went viral, a few acquaintances asked me to do these shows for their children,” he told ZDNet. “And of course I got an itch, and I thought, ‘Let’s scratch it, see what happens.'”

Since then, Moti has: worked with schools to develop curricula tailored to their individual needs; recruiting teachers for online classes from across the region; organize an internal school coding battle for 250 students in partnership with the Dubai Technology Entrepreneur Campus (Dtec); and sign a contract with Collective Center – a co-working space for investors and startups in Bahrain – training for their members.

Salim Abid, Google’s regional head of developer ecosystem at MENA.

Image: Google

School is an area that Google is also keen to support. The company plans to train more than 2,000 students a year across the UAE over the next five years as part of its CodersHQ initiative.

Students will receive training in the cloud, Android/Kotlin, machine learning, and other areas, with teaching delivered via Google’s Cloud Training platform, Qwiklabsgives individuals the opportunity to learn and test their coding skills in industry use cases and get certified.

“We are also very pleased with the development of ‘Google Developer Student Club’ Abid said at different schools across the country in MENA.

Switch to remote control

As the COVID-19 pandemic hit, there was concern that the move to distance learning could affect participation.

While Abid admits it is a challenge to improve the experience of learning cutting-edge tech skills online and make it more interactive, in reality, the move to online classes means that Google can include more experts in their training sessions. Since then, the attachment has only grown.

For the team at SE Factory, Covid has accompanied other major disruptions.

“We should not constrain our words: the past two years [in Lebanon] has been an absolute nightmare,” said Co-founder & CEO Fadi Bizri.

“The banking system collapses, the currency collapses, the healthcare system collapses. I mean, it’s just a day-to-day nightmare.”

SEE: Worried your developers will quit? Here are 5 things programmers say to keep them happy at work

At the same time, however, their programs are seeing more demand than ever before. Part of the reason for this is that graduates may be able to work remotely from Lebanon or move abroad as telecommuting becomes popular.

Like Google, SE Factory has seen similar benefits in allowing students to participate in classes remotely. The company has since then expanded into Tripoli – Lebanon’s second largest city – while retaining a 90% employment success rate. It also plans to expand its bootcamp program from two to three camps per current year, to five to six.

“During COVID, we moved everything online, and that has really helped us pave the way for scaling on a much more significant level,” Saab told ZDNet.

Programming and languages

While promising advances are being made, building a developer workforce in MENA presents a unique set of challenges, language being one of the paramount.

“While coding, the syntax may be in English, [however] If you can actually explain the concept or purpose of that particular block – or that line of code – in their native language, it really helps with logic,” explains Moti, who notes that Not all students are comfortable with English.

Google’s Salim Abid agrees: “Language remains a barrier for many students in the region. This is why we want to host more seminars and talks in Arabic in the future. ”

Moti also emphasizes the need to continue educating parents about the importance of coding, as well as the knowledge and skills it will provide children in the long run. Abid, meanwhile, points to a plan to train more than 15,000 developers in Palestine, Lebanon and Algeria as part of its goal of attracting and incentivizing less prominent developer communities. “We are very excited to see the impact of this program,” he told ZDNet.

For Zeina Saab, economic considerations remain paramount. “We’ve heard from young people whose parents were unemployed and relied on them for an income. And now, by earning new money, they can support their family, especially in times of crisis. like Lebanon is going through,” she said.

“It’s really, really heartwarming to see that a program of such a short duration, you know, just three months of focus, can make a life-changing difference.”

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