Sterling Bank Plc, and Nexford University, a United States (US) based next generation online university, have announced a new partnership that will create a global emerging markets’ talent pipeline known as “Fund Your Future” as part of Nexford’s wider ‘Learn to Earn’ for emerging markets.
Mr. Obinna Ukachukwu, Divisional Head, Health and Education sectors with Sterling Bank, who disclosed this in a statement issued by the bank recently, said the programme is designed to solve three major challenges of enabling employers to find qualified entry level talent, helping students with affordable access to university and giving students the skills they need to actually get jobs.
He said, “In the World Economic Forum’s index, Nigeria scored 44 percent on human capital development when measured by skills acquisition, trailing the sub-Saharan African average of 55 percent by 11 percent. Also, Nigerian employers face the most difficulties in filling managerial, professional and technical jobs due to lack of skilled applicants.”
According to him, the index also showed that 50 percent of Nigeria’s high school graduates failed to gain admission into local universities and other institutions of learning while employers across emerging markets struggle to find qualified entry-level talent and are forced to invest in expensive and time-consuming training.
The Divisional Head added that a McKinsey survey of young people and employers in nine countries, including major developing countries, showed that 40 percent of employers noted a lack of skills was the main reason for entry level job vacancies while 60 percent said new graduates were not adequately prepared for the world of work.
Ukachukwu remarked that the benefits of the partnership for Sterling Bank are multiple. “First is access to student talent. The students are given an education specifically tailored to the bank’s corporate needs. This saves Sterling Bank money on current early stage training to upskill graduates to the required level. Nexford’s competency-based curriculum also provides Sterling Bank with multiple data points to evaluate applicants’ qualifications, thus saving time on filtering large numbers of applications and the wider recruitment process.”
He said the students will also benefit as Sterling Bank will be playing two roles of helping the students to underwrite loans to fund their tuition fees with Nexford. This will protect them against fluctuations in foreign exchange and put them in control of their finances.
He said Sterling Bank will also provide the students with partial scholarships and internships during their studies, in addition to post-graduation job opportunities.
The wider context is that in markets such as the US, employer-funded education has grown significantly with $82.5 billion spent on upskilling in 2020 alone. The World Economic Forum also stated that one billion workers will need to be reskilled by 2030. While the need for upskilling globally is significant, the availability of a young population across emerging markets means their economies would face significant shortages of qualified entry level talent.
Fadl Al Tarzi, CEO of Nexford University said, “We are delighted to partner with an institution privileged to have such forward thinking leadership. This is a perfect match and surely the first of many such partnerships.
He said in each market, Nexford will partner with a different organisation so that employers will identify the skills they need and Nexford will identify the programmes to deliver those skills. When learners complete the programmes, they will have a far greater chance of gaining employment.
Olamidun Majekodunmi, Country Director of Nexford University said, “Our partnership with Sterling Bank is a perfect example of how Nexford is helping to bridge gaps between employers and higher education. We are committed to making access to qualified talent far easier for employers while making education more accessible and relevant for learners.”
In 2020 the university launched its ‘Nexford for Business’ programme, focused on reskilling and upskilling employees. Employers of large number of workers such as Dangote Cement in Nigeria, Indosat in Indonesia and Hassan Allam Holding in Egypt have already partnered with Nexford to upskill their employees.
Launched in 2019, Nexford leverages machine learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to create a data and skills-driven curriculum, specifically designed to match employers’ needs with its graduates’ skills. It has learners enrolled from over 65 countries and has partnerships with Microsoft, LinkedIn Learning and IBM to provide access to tools, courses and programmes to enrich the learning experience.