Digital Apprenticeship Program: Meet Sheena Raikundalia Director UK Kenya Tech Hub

EldoHub in partnership with the Thunderbird School of Global Management and with the support of the UK Kenya Tech Hub launched Digital Apprenticeship Programme targeting tech professionals. We interviewed UK Kenya Tech Hub director and here is what she had to say.

1. Tell us about yourself and how you got started in the ICT industry.
I’m a non-tecchie, in the tech world! I started out as a lawyer in London and then moved back to Nairobi to start an insurtech startup. Whilst that failed, I learnt more from that failed experience then my entire career as a lawyer and MBA combined! Having caught the entrepreneurship bug, I stayed in the space, working to help support entrepreneurs grow and scale. When the UK government set up the UK-Kenya Tech Hub, I was extremely excited to join and see how I could help support the Kenyan tech ecosystem, build skills and linkages.

2. What was your motivation to start digital apprenticeship program?

Practical experience, working in a real-life business environment is the best way to learn and gain skills. In Kenya, so many young people are interested in technology, applying for courses, teaching themselves but struggle to get the experience to use the skills learnt in practice. On the other side, businesses looking for tech talent prefer people with some experience and are unable to find it.

There is therefore a real need to provide junior tech professionals with practical experience. On the business side, most businesses still see IT as operational and are therefore not seeing the benefits of technology at a strategic level and the impact it can have on improving efficiencies, decreases costs and increasing revenues. We are hoping this programme will have double the benefits, junior tech professional get the much needed industry experience supported by mentors; and businesses will see the value of digitization, creating more jobs in the space.

3. What skill/ talent do you find has the most disconnect between what is taught in schools and actual business need? What can be done to narrow this gap?
The biggest disconnect is how we are taught in school vs what we need to get jobs, start businesses. We no longer live in an age where we need to learn, memorize facts. Information through the internet is at our finger-tips. The skills we actually need is around problem solving, logical thinking, finding information, presenting and communicating. This can then be applied across industries.

4. What does short term success look like for the program? What would be the next steps based on this success?

Short-term success for the programme would be for the junior tech professionals to complete meaningful projects and gain experience that they can add to their cvs/portfolios and build their confidence to either apply for jobs or start their own businesses. An added bonus would be if the juniors were hired or engaged in some from by the business they were placed in after the programme ends. From the business perspective, success would include seeing how the businesses benefitted from the experience and collating learnings and research on what worked and what didn’t. An added bonus would be if the business hired or retained tech talent and started digitizing an aspect of their business.

5. How does success look like for the program in 5 years?
Success in 5 years would be if this become a stand along, sustainable programme, where existing universities, TVETS, course providers, self-taught junior tech professionals would be automatically matched to businesses across Kenya, from startups, SMEs, corporates, governments and NGOs. The businesses would see the benefit of having the apprentices and would be willing to pay for the service; governments would provide incentives for businesses to hire the junior tech professionals and businesses would be able to access the benefits of technology by becoming more digital enabled creating even more jobs. A positive, virtuous cycle!

6. How can the program collaborate with the private sector to increase the impact of the digital apprenticeship program?
The program is already working with the private sector ie by placing junior tech professional in the private sector. The private sector, through the big tech companies are also providing corporate buddies for the junior tech professional, adding an important mentorship component in the programme. It would be great to scale up the collaboration working with associations and businesses across Kenya to ensure that businesses and junior tech professionals across the country can participate.