The global economy is rapidly digitising, and the skills needed to stay competitive are evolving just as quickly. With technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and blockchain becoming mainstream, the demand for tech-savvy professionals continues to outstrip supply across industries.
This dynamic presents major opportunities as well as challenges for Nigerian professionals who have to constantly upgrade their capabilities with specialised skills and certifications to remain employable, launch entrepreneurial ventures, or advance their careers.
Investing time and resources in relevant business and technology skills training is no longer an option but a necessity for any professional who wants to stay ahead of the curve and become a valuable asset in the 21st-century digital economy.
The case for upskilling
The digitization of everyday tasks, automation of routine jobs, and innovations in artificial intelligence are already disrupting several industry verticals across the globe. These technological advancements are changing how businesses operate, engage with customers, and even design their organisational structures.
As companies compete on speed, efficiency, and quality of service delivery, there is a surging demand for talented professionals with specialised skill sets to drive business growth. Technology roles like software engineers, data analysts, digital marketers, AI specialists, etc. are highly sought after and well rewarded.
Beyond technical skills, capabilities like creative problem-solving, design thinking, emotional intelligence, collaboration, and adaptability are becoming baseline requirements for professional success across domains.
With outdated skills fast losing relevance, Nigerian professionals essentially have two choices: actively upskill to remain employable or face the risk of skill redundancy. By investing in training and certifications, they can fill glaring skill gaps, become better positioned for opportunities, and command higher-profile roles and packages.
The Upskilling Imperative for Nigerian Professionals
Nigeria’s youth population is estimated at over 60% of its 200 million people. This youth bulge presents massive opportunities if gainfully engaged in productive economic activities, but also risks if left without jobs or prospects.
Maximising Opportunities in the Digital Economy
As digital transformation continues to shape global, regional, and local economies, Nigerian professionals have a wealth of opportunities opening up if they take the initiative to upskill. They can equip themselves with much sought-after capabilities to not only participate but also become key drivers of digital innovation across industries.
Some of the major areas and emerging specialisations in which they can gain relevant competencies include:
- Software engineering and development: building applications, programmes, and digital solutions
- AI and machine learning: developing systems that can learn, reason, and make decisions based on data patterns
- Data analytics: mining data to derive actionable business insights
- Digital marketing: leveraging online channels for business visibility, leads, and sales
- Blockchain technology: building decentralised digital ledgers and applications
- Cloud computing: managing on-demand cloud infrastructure, services, and operations
- Cybersecurity: Safeguarding information systems and data assets
- Project management: planning and executing complex projects with digital components
- Quality assurance: Establishing testing parameters and evaluating system performance
- UX/UI design: designing human-centric digital products and services
These skills enable professionals to launch and grow successful startups, gain remote freelance jobs with global companies, become intrapreneurs within large enterprises, or qualify for overseas placements.
Why Technical Skills Matter
While domain expertise and soft skills are vital, technical capabilities determine professionals’ abilities to carry out specific roles, especially in STEM-related fields. These skills validate their expertise in handling advanced tools, frameworks, and processes needed for planning, building, managing, or supporting complex digital solutions.
As employers aim to build world-class organisational capabilities, they are compelled to hire and retain employees with proven technical abilities rather than those playing catch-up through on-the-job training. This makes candidates with recognised tech skills and credentials more employable.
The good news is that such skills can be acquired cost-effectively in months (not years) through focused training programmes, compared to traditional college degrees. Certification exams also allow validating capabilities without long-drawn-out tests.
Plugging the Technical Skill Gaps
Nigeria grapples with a huge tech talent shortage across industries, despite its high youth population. A 2020 report by Deloitte revealed over 210,000 tech jobs remain unfilled, largely due to skill gaps. These are openings that professionals with upgraded capabilities can readily tap into.
Some of the most in-demand technical skills include:
- Web development: HTML, CSS, Node.js, React
- Data science: SQL, Tableau, Python, and R
- Cloud platforms: AWS, Azure, and GCP
- Digital Marketing: Search, Social, Content, and Video
- Software testing (QA, SDETs, automation)
By mastering combinations of these skills, professionals can qualify for roles like full-stack developers, cloud architects, data analysts and scientists, digital marketers, DevOps engineers, product designers, etc.
Addressing the experience, catch-22
Despite recognising critical skill gaps, some professionals delay upskilling due to a lack of industry experience. However, delaying equates to losing earning potential and falling behind peers who upgrade themselves.
The good news is that experience norms are getting challenged as employers face skill shortages, especially in tech domains. Organisations are now prioritising capabilities over profiling. Specialised certifications help candidates demonstrate abilities without requiring years of experience.
Many are getting placed in software jobs immediately after intensive coding bootcamps, while certified digital marketers are driving online growth for brands.
Paths to Progress: Upskilling and Reskilling
Nigerian professionals keen to build in-demand capabilities can choose from available modes of skills training based on their learning styles, backgrounds, and career goals. While self-learning works for some, most benefit better from structure-facilitated programs. Some of the popular options include:
Short-Term Skill Development Programmes
For professionals looking to build specific competencies over short periods of time, targeted skill development programmes offer a viable path. Technology academies like Andela, Meta’s Next Gen Academy, IBM Skills Academy, etc. offer intensive training followed by project work geared towards making candidates deployment-ready.
Mainstream edtech firms like Udemy, Coursera, and LinkedIn Learning also offer short-term courses for upgrading domain knowledge and tool skills across industries.
Immersive bootcamps deliver focused training through online, on-campus, or blended models to equip professionals with hands-on skills. Providers like Alt School, Decagon, Semicolon, etc. offer intensive coding and tech bootcamps, enabling job placement or entrepreneurship for graduates.
Similarly, skills boot camps in digital marketing, data analytics, product management, supply chain, and other high-demand domains allow professionals to get career-ready within months. Leading examples include Social Media Week Academy, DeMod Academy, Altschool Africa, etc.
Professionals can opt for shorter micro-courses, classes, and certifications to cumulatively stack credentials demonstrating upgraded capabilities. Reputed platforms like Coursera, Hubspot Academy, Digiskills, etc. allow learners to earn market-recognised credentials at affordable costs.
Providers also offer guided learning paths or programmes where micro-credentials can be bundled to provide deep capability building. This appeals to self-motivated learners with focus areas.
University Collaboration Programmes
Specialised course offerings from leading universities allow Nigerian professionals to access global-standard training and certification. Reputed programmes delivered online through local partners span cutting-edge fields like AI, ML, cybersecurity, blockchain, data science, UX, etc.
Edtech firms also partner with international faculties to deliver blended courses, projects, and placement drives. Some notable examples include Emeritus, Jigsaw Academy, RMITS, etc. Such programmes appeal to career switchers looking for deep capability building.
As skills needs evolve rapidly, more enterprises opt for in-house programmes to re-skill employees. IT services firms run internal academies offering new recruits intensive training for high-demand skills like full-stack development, cloud computing, SAP, etc. before staffing them on client projects.
Leading consumer goods company Procter & Gamble offers data science and analytics bootcamps to employees globally to address talent scarcity in these areas. Such initiatives align internal capabilities with business priorities through structured upskilling initiatives.
Resource Options for Self-Motivated Learners
Self-paced learning has become more accessible than ever for professionals, thanks to the wealth of specialised courses, tutorials, publications, and online communities available today. Those keen to direct their own upskilling journeys can leverage these resources to build in-demand skills.
Online courses and tutorials
YouTube has emerged as the world’s learning hub, with educators like Mosh Hamedani, Khan Academy, Telusko, FreeCodeCamp, etc. attracting millions of subscribers to their tech tutorial channels. Practitioners share complete courses breaking down complex topics through free videos.
Interactive coding platforms like Codecademy, Pluralsight, Udacity, and LinkedIn Learning offer extensive catalogues for learning developer skills, data science, digital marketing, etc. Coding bootcamps like AltCampus bundle video content, live classes, mentors, and job placement support for structured learning journeys.
Books and publications
O’Reilly, Packt, and other publishing houses offer speciality imprints spanning tech, business, and creative domains, featuring books for both beginners and experts. Digital formats such as Amazon Kindle, Google Play Books, etc. provide portable access options.
Podcasts as On-the-Go Learning
Podcasts deliver tactical skills, career, and industry insights through practitioner-hosted episodes playable during commutes, chores, or downtime. From coding to marketing to self-improvement, options exist for listening while on the move.
Platforms like GitHub, Stack Overflow, and LinkedIn Groups connect professionals worldwide, sharing problems, solutions, tools, and techniques for mutual learning boosted through crowd-sourced knowledge.
Setting aside consistent times for learning amid busy schedules is key. But once momentum builds, progress speeds up, enabling career elevation faster. Whichever mode professionals choose, being self-driven is the key ingredient to success.
The optimal path forward depends on individuals’ specific constraints, paces, and goals balanced across work commitments. Evaluating options based on benefits, costs, and efforts needed allows for determining suitable avenues for self-motivated technology capability building.
Transferrable Capabilities Beyond Early Specialisations
Professionals should focus on developing reputed capabilities early on to qualify for available opportunities, establish credibility, and start recovering investments sooner.
However, they should avoid the trap of overspecializing without building transferrable proficiencies. For instance, becoming a Python expert is great, but also learning JS, APIs, UX principles, etc. enhances versatility to adapt across roles like full-stack developer, product manager, etc.
Mastering fundamentals allows you to learn additional tools faster. A developer conversant with the core software development lifecycle can switch stacks faster. Knowing web protocols helps pick any front-end library quicker. So foundational skills foster versatility.
While professionals understand current skill adjacencies like data science and analytics, machine learning and AI, etc., the next rocket ships could arise from anywhere, e.g., spatial computing. So staying across developments helps make timely bets.
Widening Accessibility to Global Work
Beyond chasing local job opportunities, tech skills like coding, analytics, marketing management, etc. enable Nigerian professionals to access work opportunities with leading multinational companies or fast-growing startups across continents.
Location flexibility possible with remote work allows qualified candidates to earn in foreign currencies while living here. This helps Nigerian professionals hedge risks, maintain lifestyles across uncertainty, and save towards long-term goals.
In-demand experts can command global rates through high-paying remote freelancing platforms like Toptal, Gun.io, etc., serving marquee clientele with interesting projects and providing fulfilling work. Improvement mindsets rather than fixed ones help continually progress.
Partnering Educational Institutions for Early Talent Readiness
With fast-changing workplace needs, educational institutions have to balance foundational concepts with tactical skills, critical thinking, and specialised capabilities so graduates remain employable.
Here, vocational training and research-focused universities can jointly develop industry-aligned programmes and activities like hackathons, 1-2-year PG diplomas, etc. to deliver talent pipelines for partner employers. Infusing real-life projects into curricula keeps them demand-focused rather than purely academic.
Top students get recruited even before completion through such partnerships, while others expand prospects beyond campus placements. Curating programmes based on hiring demands and co-developing them jointly fosters employability.
Building Capability Cultures at Organisations
With business landscapes being altered frequently by technology disruptions, leading companies now focus on continually developing organisational capabilities rather than just individual skills.
They create cultures of learning through digital content libraries, internal experts as faculty, cross-skilling, job rotation, gig opportunities, hackathons, etc., helping employees stay relevant.
Rotation allows for experiencing real customer issues from service, sales, tech support teams, etc., expanding the lens beyond immediate teams. Hackathons keep staff updated on cutting-edge solutions through rapid prototyping.
Common hybrid roles like Engineer in Test, Automation Expert, and Data Scientist lend technical depth while being embedded with business teams. Netflix employs engineers in almost all non-engineering departments to foster technical mindsets.
Leading startups expect all hires to code during induction, irrespective of roles, before fanning out to functions. Such cultural orientation helps organisations respond better to dynamic industry shifts.
By staying invested in continuous learning, Nigerian professionals can acquire much sought-after business and tech skills to amplify their career opportunities, job security, and financial upside in the unfolding digital economy. The quicker they embark on upskilling journeys, the higher returns they can realise over long, fruitful careers.