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Technology and its innovations are among the fastest-growing areas of our economy. Smartphones, hybrid work setup, sensor-based controls, contactless shopping,  cloud-native virtual networks – all these things and more are being created, maintained, and upgraded by Science, Technology, and Engineering (STEM) professionals.

Around the world, finding and developing ICT talent as industry demands for ICT workers increase are crucial areas to focus on. The challenging part is the supply of qualified STEM candidates is still yet to increase.

It is necessary for the digital economy and its communities of today to become more growth-based, entrepreneurial, competitive, innovative, and diversified – and ICT talents are a key part of this. Young people, in particular, must fully comprehend the opportunities available for those with a STEM background. Citing as an example, as societies become more digitally connected, cybersecurity threats become more evident and require more people with ICT and cybersecurity skills to combat the threat.

With the modern era marked by an explosion of information, fueled by the development of technology, strengthening the ICT talent ecosystem is more important than ever as investments in these sectors continue. The ICT sector as a whole, with AI, cloud computing, big data, IoT, and 5G, among the most important ones, form the basic building blocks of our intelligent society.

These advanced technologies are needed for our progress, but we cannot benefit from them fully without investing in building the ICT talent ecosystem. Talent is required to maintain the current momentum of digital progress and among the world’s leaders in ICT, the Middle East has recognized the need to invest in the ICT talent ecosystem. Telcos are among those who form initiatives and partnerships that enable students to learn the skills needed to enter and compete in a tech-driven job market.

In reality, investment in building the young and local talent ecosystem will not only build the ICT landscape but would propel us towards realizing a sustainable, knowledge-based future. Together, a ripple effect must be created to prepare the next generation of ICT experts who will lead us into a better, brighter, and more advanced tomorrow.

Boosting ICT talents and their impact

Ultimately, closing the gap on the ICT skills required in today’s workforce will help to bridge the digital divide. That will in turn benefit not only the Middle East region but also all nations in the world by cutting unemployment rates, strengthening the local ICT talent ecosystem, and driving the long-term development of all industries.

Today, the Middle East is in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) – from smart cities to space exploration, the region is harnessing the full value of technology to benefit individuals, governments, communities, and enterprises. Having enough and qualified ICT talents are required to realize these ambitions. Truly, people are an enabling factor in achieving digital transformation.

The World Bank estimates that the MENA region will need to create 300 million jobs by 2050 to meet the employment needs of the region’s youth. Thus, training local talent in the skills that will enable them not only for employment but to contribute to the digital future of the region, is therefore a must.

By investing in academic partnerships focused on STEM topics and specialized tech domains, upskilling the existing workforce through formal training and on-the-job programs are core aspects that can be done by both public and private sectors.

One of the most active players in the ICT talent development in the region with more than 100 ICT academies is Huawei. During a previous online media roundtable, then president of Huawei Middle East who is now president of Huawei Digital Power Global’s marketing and sales department Charles Yang talked about Huawei’s 2021 plan in talent development. He said, “In regards to talent developments, we have several programs such as Seize the Future ICT competition, ICT academy, and ICT labs. Last year, we cooperated with more than 20 ministries, 400+ universities in organizing the ICT competition attended by 15,000 students. These efforts will be continued and we will leverage this platform to inspire more students to learn ICT knowledge.”

Egypt’s potential as a competitive ICT talent hub

Over the past decades, Egypt has witnessed a major technological development and an outstanding revolution in the ICT domain. In fact, Egypt's ministry of planning and economic development plans to raise the contribution of the telecommunication and information technology sector in the state’s GDP to 5% by 2025.

Hailed as the new Arab digital capital for 2021, Dr. Amr Talaat, minister of telecommunications and information technology of Egypt, shared the country’s vision which consists of three pillars that aim to create an Arab digital society: digital transformation, capacity and digital skills building, and driving innovation.

Focusing on the second pillar, new generations of Egyptians now have plenty of opportunities for ICT skills development and professional training. Egypt possesses a competitive and balanced, economy, making it rich in human resources with diverse and growing talents and capable of learning and innovating.

Huawei has undeniably played a pivotal role in developing the skills of Egyptian youth over the past years. This came as part of their strategy in aligning their goals with Egypt 2030 Vision and working harmoniously with the Egyptian government in creating a better future for the young people.

Mr. Tim Zhou, CEO of Huawei Egypt CNBG, said, “I would like to express my elation towards the cooperation with our partners in success for empowering young Egyptian carders. This program is also believed to enhance the role of digital transformation and will also offer job opportunities to young graduates who enjoy competitive skills and capabilities. This will positively reflect on the performance and development of the ICT sector in Egypt. We, at Huawei, are well aware of the role that youth play in developing this sector, so we are endeavoring to stimulate the state’s strategies that strive to underpin the digital transformation in Egypt, within the framework of Egypt's 2030 vision and its determination to empower and enhance the potential of the young Egyptian cadres.”

It is no surprise that Huawei’s programs continue to be a successful case study in Egypt. Starting in 2019, Huawei Egypt introduced the ICT Talent Bank (iTB) program which aims to participate in the capacity building for ICT talents required to implement Egypt’s digital transformation strategy. It also targets making Egypt the center of excellence & ICT talent hub in the region. In line with this, the Huawei Academy has established 70 academies at Egyptian public and private universities and became a key member of the Digital Egypt Builders Initiative (DEBI), enabling ICT graduates’ to hone their skills with the updated technologies and practical experience.

Yousry Atlam, CEO of Huawei Academy in Egypt, said, “The iTB program consists of three phases. The first phase is 'access', which aims to communicate with students and recent graduates in various Egyptian universities, while the second phase focuses on 'training', and then comes the third phase, which is the most important one, as it is all about 'employment', and it is designed to provide job opportunities for students and distinguished talents at Huawei or any of the companies operating in the communications and information technology sector. This will contribute to bridging the digital gap in the labor market as a result.”

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