This Startup Pays African Students to Learn How to Code
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Most twenty-somethings in Nairobi are underemployed—and most also can’t afford to pay for college to get better jobs. On a trip to the Kenyan capital to give a talk about the future of education, edtech pioneer Jeremy Johnson was asked a difficult question: How is it possible to scale high-quality education if people can’t pay for tuition?
At the time, Johnson was running a startup called 2U, a platform that partners with universities to offer online degrees. But after leaving the conference, he couldn’t stop thinking about the challenge of providing education in Africa and had a spark of inspiration that eventually led him to quit his job to start something new. “What if instead of charging tuition, like a traditional educational system, you were to instead pay people to learn?” he asked.
Andela, the new company Johnson cofounded, links education to a skills gap—software development—and uses the students’ own work to fund their learning. “There are certain skills, in particular in the digital economy, that are inherently incredibly valuable right now,” he says. “The skills gap is massive. There are four jobs for every software developer in the U.S. right now, and 14,000 open IT jobs.”
The new program takes advantage of that demand to fund learning. Students spend six months in an online coding bootcamp, and then start using their new skills to work for clients overseas. U.S. companies pay Andela about half of what they might pay a typical developer, but that’s enough for the program to give students a middle-class wagas they learn, and to fund new students as they get up to speed. Over the four-year program, students shift back and forth between real-world experience and more education. Andela invests around $10,000 in each student.