You can call it catching them very young. In a fast paced technologically evolving world ,the fear of Nigeria been left far behind in the affairs of things can actually be set aside now. There is hope for light at the end of the tunnel with initiatives like YEP. The Young Empowered Programmers is a tech-education firm that trains kids and teens between the 5 and 16 on Computer Programming (Coding). Innovation Village recently caught up with Olaseni Cole, the Founder of YEP, who in this interview took us on a trip into the world of YEP, What the initiative has to offer, how it works, the challenges, future plans and yes! words on the marble for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Can we meet you?
My name is Olaseni Cole, I am a graduate of Computer Engineering and the Founder of Young Empowered Programmers, a tech-education company that trains kids between the ages of 5 and 16 on Computer Programming (Coding). YEP formally began operations in January 2017.
Can you tell us about YEP and what it has to offer?
Young Empowered Programmers is a tech-education firm that trains kids and teens between the ages of 5 and 16 on Computer Programming. The aim of Young Empowered Programmers is to raise an army of innovators, inventors builders and problem-solvers in and from Africa. The 21st century is the technological age and it goes without much saying that to thrive, every child must be equipped with core ICT skills. We discovered that these ICT skills are highly absent in Africa, to the extent that children in most schools have never even seen a computer before. Young Empowered Programmers not only introduces kids and teens to how computers work, we also teach them computer programming which will help them create using software.
What motivated the launch of YEP?
The inspiration to set up Young Empowered Programmers, kicked in when I was posted to Ibadan, a fairly cosmopolitan city in Oyo state, Nigeria for my National Youth Service Corps. As an ICT instructor at a public school, I was horrified to learn that students received only theoretical instruction about computers and a good number of the students in my classes had never even seen a computer before. I began to take my laptop to school every day and ensured I introduced at least one student a day to a practical understanding of how computers work. When I finished my service year, I decided to scale this idea and created Young Empowered Programmers (YEP!) to introduce children between the ages of 5 and 16 to computer programming.
What is unique about the services the platform has to offer?
Coding is the language of computers and it will be what separates the educated from the ignorant masses of tomorrow, and knowing this, Young Empowered Programmers is preparing and equipping children for the future of tech by teaching them programming, more importantly, how to be innovative and how to solve problems collaboratively and on their own. We work with reputable schools, and also train kids and teens in our facilities.
How does YEP work?
Young Empowered Programmers employs the expertise of experienced, top-notch Trainers to break down the rudiments of computer programming to the simplest bits that children understand and become creatively engaged in. We work with various schools on a daily basis and also have a Saturday Coding Club at our learning centres every weekend.
What has the traction been like since its launch?
We have been making progress with new customers signing up every day to our programs. At the moment we have about 3,000 children learning how to code from Young Empowered Programmers across reputable schools and communities. Of course, there is still much more work to be done and grounds to be covered. We believe YEP will play a major role in educating a huge percentage of African kids and teens on coding in the long run.
What were the challenges encountered and achievements recorded so far since YEP launched?
In operating Young Empowered Programmers, the major challenge is inadequate power supply which makes us spend heavily on petrol. Another challenge is sensitizing parents on what coding is and the need for their children to learn the skill. However, we are making significant progress in surmounting these challenges which will soon be things of the past. It is noteworthy to mention here that in less than a year, YEP has helped over 3000 students gain some level of computer literacy and knowledge of computer programming, with some of them creating beautiful engaging games and innovative apps. I was also nominated for The 2017 Future Awards Africa Prize for Education and Young Empowered Programmers is a recognized member of the International Alliance of Youth Coding Educators.
What advice do you have for prospective entrepreneurs out there?
My simple advice to every aspiring entrepreneur is: be passionate about what you want to venture into. Your primary motivation should be solving problems and adding value to your environment. Research, study and learn from others who have succeeded in what you are set out to do as this will guide you on your journey.
What are the future plans for YEP?
We are currently working towards spreading our impact to other parts of Nigeria. YEP is a Pan-African company and so our learning centres will be established in other African countries in the nearest future.
What do you have to say about the evolving Nigerian startup ecosystem?
The Nigerian startup ecosystem is making tremendous progress despite the glaring infrastructural challenges in our country today. This tells us of the can-do spirit of Nigerian entrepreneurs. Innovative ideas are being born every day and this shows that we have a bright future as a country.