Education Unusual? How Microsoft's technical partner Wootlab, is leveraging digital literacy upskilling initiatives to build Africa's next generation of digital talents – TechCabal

While the world was locked down due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Wootlab took advantage of the opportunity to promote essential digital literacy skills in a covid impacted world, maximising the breakdown of borders and utilization of technology for engagements, remote work, remote communications and expansion of opportunities for a global knowledge economy.
Wootlab, founded in 2019, is a woman-led organisation with two arms: Wootlab Innovation, the business arm and Wootlab Foundation, the non-profit arm. Chioma Okoro, the CEO, has led the organisation to become one of Nigeria’s foremost digital literacy organisations. The organisation is on a mission to improve the employability of the Nigerian youth and to lift lower-income Nigerians out of poverty by leveraging the design/implementation of digital skills initiatives and digital literacy. Through its foundation and partnerships with tech giants like Microsoft which gives Wootlab access to its e-learning centre, Wootlab is building tech talents that are equipped to compare with the current global workforce and compete in today’s job markets.
Wootlab Innovation
Wootlab Innovation is a software training and talent outsourcing company that functions as the for-profit arm of the organisation. With its world-class curriculum, Wootlab Innovation trains software developers to meet the growing global need in the field. They match well-trained developers with companies looking for tech talent. Wootlab staff and trainees also create tech products to meet company needs.
Wootlab Foundation
Just like the Innovation service, Wootlab’s nonprofit arm, Wootlab Foundation, leverages technology as well, in this case, to aid out-of-school children and youth. The foundation provides free technology training and upskilling initiatives through various programmes for marginalised communities. The mission here is to aid the learning of digital skills for persons who would typically not have the means to undertake this on their own, by extension, supporting the economic empowerment of these individuals and their communities and contributing to Nigeria’s knowledge economy
Wootlab programmes
In just three years of existence, Wootlab Innovation and Foundation have undertaken quite an impressive number of programmes. Partnering with Microsoft and various other international and local governmental bodies, they have created empowering initiatives countrywide. Some of those programmes are:
Digital states initiative: Wootlab, in partnership with The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) and Microsoft which makes its e-learning centre open to Wootlab, has provided virtual training in digital skills and job outsourcing sensitisation to over 9,000 youths in Nigeria. 55% of the beneficiaries of this programme have been young women between the ages of 14-30.
This Initiative has been implemented in 15 states which are Kaduna, Katsina, Borno, Nassarawa, Niger, Lagos, Bayelsa, Abia, Ekiti, Imo, Oyo, Rivers, Gombe, Kano, and Kwara. Over 300,000 beneficiaries have also registered on the Microsoft Community Training (MCT) platform with access to free learning materials curated by Microsoft and Wootlab. This programme is in line with Microsoft’s commitment to training five million Nigerians within three years.
– LEADS programme: Learn Entrepreneurship and Applicable Digital Skills (LEADS) is a Wootlab foundation project born out of the need to help students during the recent Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strike but has grown to offer tech-enabled courses to unemployed and underemployed Nigerians. This programme equips young Nigerians with employable and entrepreneurial skills tailored towards the digital economy as it aims to foster economic growth and jobs. This programme is funded by Microsoft and has over 6,000 beneficiaries so far. Currently in its third cohort, LEADS is taking it a step further to include the newly launched free Skills for Jobs learning pathways for global learners looking to transition into fast-growing, tech-enabled, and technical roles. This offer includes more than 350 courses, easy-to-follow learning paths, and six new Career Readiness Certificates from Microsoft and LinkedIn to help workers showcase their skills to employers.
–  Digital Kwara: This programme was a 2020 collaboration between Wootlab Innovation and the Kwara State Social Investment Programme (KWASSIP), introduced to help mitigate the effects of the pandemic. It was a two-week virtual training programme in basic and mid-level digital skills in the areas of productivity tools, content creation, digital marketing, and web and graphics design initially designed for 3,000 Kwarans. However, the programme was so successful that 30% of the underemployed participants received a salary raise based on the skills acquired, and 55% of unemployed graduates were offered a job that required the use of productivity tools in the workplace, as such, the Kwara State government decided to sponsor the second batch of training with Wootlab for 10,000 more Kwarans, bringing the overall number of beneficiaries to 13,000. Wootlab also supported 50% of women-owned businesses with websites and one year of free hosting.
–  Devcamp: this programme, funded by the British Council UK Nigeria Tech Hub (UKNGTH) is a 12-week intensive software development bootcamp aimed at promoting entrepreneurship. The 2020 programme saw carefully selected participants trained with 70%  getting job placement, 40% of which were women. Seven products were developed altogether in this programme, including a medical screening app and an e-commerce platform.
– Basecamp: This entrepreneurship programme was a partnership between Wootlab and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (GIZ). Wootlab organised a free three-month software development and entrepreneurship programme to train selected software developers on how to grow their digital enterprises and become digital entrepreneurs. This programme also included intensive coding, training, and mentoring.
Other Wootlab programmes include the Kwarapreneur accelerator programme, also in partnership with KWASSIP. Wootlab, in collaboration with Microsoft, served as the digital and entrepreneurship training partner in 2021 for intensive four-week training. This training was aimed at turning early-stage and idea-stage startups into fully developed business models. Wootlab Foundation also implements the Digital skills and Creativity Pillar of the At-Risk Children programme (ARC-P) to give vulnerable children basic literacy and digital skills to help their productivity and future.
Wootlab has been on a steady upward trajectory since its inception, with various programmes and initiatives and they hope to continue to improve the digital skills and employability of women and youth in Nigeria, to help them compete in a growing digital world.
Connect with Wootlab here as they continue on their journey to building the next generation of digital talent.


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