One of the major impediments to blockchain growth in the MENA and GCC region has been the lack of skilled resources. This is gradually changing as more and more educational projects flourish in the region. One of those projects is Holberton Lebanon erected in partnership with one of the leading computer science educational establishments founded in Silicon Valley Holberton School. Lebanon is now offering its courses through Holberton Academy in Lebanon under the auspices of Startecheus fintech hub and Academy situated in Beirut Digital District.
Silicon Valley based Holberton opened its doors in 2016, and graduates students to companies such as LinkedIn, Google, Tesla, Docker, Apple, DropBox, Facebook, Pinterest, Genentech, Cisco, IBM, and more.
UNLOCK spoke to Mr. Nizar Ajeeb, Managing Director of Holberton Academy in Lebanon and Mrs. Joelle Chebli, Marketing and Operations Manager who explained why they teamed up with Holberton and how it is helping graduates and corporate employees across the region and in Lebanon.
According to Ajeeb, “There is a huge gap in the region and particularly in Lebanon between what is being taught in academia and the required industry skills. When we started the idea of Holberton we met with multiple universities and decided that the best way to fill this gap would be through an international provider with good track record and world class offering, and as such our choice was Holberton School to cover the latest tech skills.”
Holberton Academy in Lebanon was launched in July of 2020 in Beirut. It provides 100 online courses in the following tracks, full stack development, machine learning, Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain and Augmented Reality and Virtual reality. As Ajeeb explains, “Each course takes three months to complete and then students move on to the advanced courses in the same track.”
Through online courses and in the comfort of Beirut Design District campus Lebanese students and graduates can apply to these tracks and increase their skillset as well as hiring status. As Chebli explains, “It is a highly professional course track and requires at least 30 hours of commitment per week in terms of preparing, covering lectures and so forth. It is also not easy to enroll, applicants have to go through three levels of exams over a two week period and only if they pass can they enter the program.”
In addition to the hard skills that students gain from the courses taken, they also learn a lot of soft skills and become part of a larger community that expands across several continents. Chebli states, “They can utilize the Zen Desk, peer learning and the many mentors available from top tier tech companies.”
With the first Blockchain course launched in July of 2020, seven students enrolled. Ajeeb explains, “Even though we don’t have many blockchain companies in Lebanon, these students can actually work for companies in Europe, USA, and Canada when they graduate, as we assist them in securing jobs. In addition there are some startups in Lebanon and GCC utilizing blockchain and are in dire need of these talents.”
He adds “There has been a lot of interest in these programs especially since they are world class programs from Silicon Valley utilized to secure high paying jobs, especially in a country like Lebanon where unemployment is skyrocketing. We are giving the demanded skills needed in markets such as USA, Europe, GCC and even Lebanon.”
Today Holberton Lebanon is an exclusive partner of Holberton USA across the entire MENA region. Ajeeb states, “Today we are in Lebanon but we hope to expand across the region to UAE, KSA, Jordan, and Iraq.”
Holberton also offers two specialization programs for under graduates. These are two year programs in software engineering and programming.
As for the cost the Holberton Lebanon team has been very supportive during these economic times in Lebanon. As Chebli explains, “We are accepting payments in Lebanese Lira, banks transfers and even checks. Since one of our main objectives is to have a strong social impact and transform Lebanon into a tech hub through remote working we are trying to provide scholarships and grants from NGOs within Lebanon and internationally.”
The cost of the course is $3500 USD and Chebli views this as an investment rather than a cost. She explains, “While it might look like a lot to pay here in Lebanon in reality it is not much, however we are working with NGOs to help secure scholarships when applicable. We have worked with LIFE (Lebanese International Finance Executives) headed by Alexandre Harkous as well. Our aim is to help Lebanese achieve a brighter future and we are doing all we can to achieve this.”
Some of the students enrolled in the Blockchain and AI tracks for example are being hired to work on Lebanon’s trade finance platform CEDAR Oxygen platform because the founders would rather recruit talent from within Lebanon then from outside.
As for the upcoming Blockchain courses, Holberton Lebanon website will be offering a blockchain and Cryptocurrency course in January of 2021 but to get an early bird discount or LIFE scholarships applicants should apply by November 30th 2020.