Creating a new generation of African data scientists
Pitch us on your solution
African businesses spend millions of dollars each year hiring data scientists abroad. This is due to the lack of skilled human capital within the African workforce capable of transforming data generated by businesses into actionable insights.
Prior to joining Blossom Academy, applicants go through an intensive selection process encompassing aptitude tests and in-person interviews. They are then placed into small groups to take online courses, interact with instructors in virtual classrooms, and work on real-world projects during class session. Each student is also assigned an academic mentor. At the conclusion, we hold a two day datathon, where we connect graduates to employers.
Through our work, we have trained 25 university graduates and have a 96% placement rate and we’ve also seen a 600% increase in the salary of our graduates. Additionally four companies have created data science roles after engaging with Blossom Academy as employer partners.
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What is the problem you are solving?
By 2050, 1 in 4 people on earth will be African. Africans and their skills are the greatest asset to the continent to drive the economy forward. Blossom Academy was founded in 2017 because of a disconnect. In Africa, 50% of university students who graduate annually are unemployed.
And in Ghana, 2% of graduates with quantitative and engineering backgrounds are able to find a job in the relevant field and yet African businesses spend millions of dollars each year hiring data scientists abroad. This is due to the lack of skilled human capital within the African workforce capable of transforming data generated by businesses into actionable insights.
In today’s most progressive countries, organizations not only collect large volumes of data; they also develop the human capital required to transform data into knowledge assets. Promoting a data-driven culture across Africa will guide governments to implement decisions based on past trends, increase foreign investments due to detailed transparent records, and benefit those in the informal sectors, such as helping farmers predict when to grow and harvest crops.
Who are you serving?
We serve youth who have completed universities but cannot secure formal employment. According to the Trade Union Congress of Ghana, approximately 300,000 graduates are produced in Ghana every year. In the 2018 graduate class, 26% or 78,000 of them had quantitative and/or engineering backgrounds. However, educational policy makers haven’t figured out yet how to best provide the practical skills needed in the growing tech job market- which results in the majority of graduates squandering their talents at virtually no fault of their own. If a fraction of these graduates were trained well in tech and provided the necessary soft and leadership skills, local companies would probably not be spending so much on expat fees.
The promise of a tech career in Ghana, and across Africa, has never been higher. The job market in tech is growing fast, but there are only a few graduates who possess the appropriate analytical skills. With a youth unemployment rate nearing 50% (World Bank, 2016), we see university graduates of quantitative and engineering backgrounds benefitting most.
At Blossom Academy, students go through our 6 month fellowship program and find a job within 28 days on average and make $2000/month on average.
What is your solution?
Blossom Academy currently offers a full-time, 6-month fellowship program, a full-time advanced data science course that has a 96% job placement rate. By working with data science and HR experts to design the curriculum, our immersive program consists of rigorous academic training in Data Analytics and Machine Learning, in addition to soft skills development.
Prior to joining Blossom Academy, applicants go through an intensive selection process encompassing aptitude tests and in-person interviews. During the first 3 months of the training program, we touch upon the foundational courses under data science, which includes problem solving skills, machine learning, and deep learning fundamentals. For the next 3 months, our students work on realistic projects provided by employer partners. We’ve found from our research that most tech startups prefer to outsource their short term data projects until they are ready to bring on a full-time employee. At the conclusion, we employ our graduates and connect them with employers as consultants.
Blossom’s aim is to expand our course offerings so we can impact thousands more lives and continue to offer personalized courses to our alumni and the current workforce to build their capacity based on employer needs.
Select only the most relevant.
Where is your solution team headquartered?Accra, Ghana
Our solution's stage of development:
Select one of the below:
New business model or process
Describe what makes your solution innovative.
We understand that our competitors, Andela and Explore Data Science Academy, create their courses based on the expertise of a data science team.
As a result, we differentiate ourselves by first identifying the challenges of our employer partners prior to designing the curriculum. We also use a method of learning that combines traditional classroom experiences with online learning called ‘Blended Learning.’ This innovative educational hybrid challenges the traditional face-to-face learning that most institutions use. Students are introduced to the course content at home to review at their own pace. They also acquire the complex skills of a 21st-century business strategist by working through a series of realistic projects during class time. To ensure we can engage and put students in charge of their own learning, in-person sessions are based on experiential instructional methods rather than a traditional lecture-based style.
Successful completion of our confirms readiness for employment. Our metrics for success includes peer assessments, in-class presentations on basic data science theory, and timed data challenges, which are meant to resemble company take-home projects. The data challenges involve visualizing data, manipulating data, and applying algorithms on the dataset.
Describe the core technology that your solution utilizes.
In order to incorporate ‘Blended Learning’ into our immersive training program, our students come into our classrooms everyday and work through our Learning Management System (LMS). Through our LMS, students receive notifications, review online content at home, submit work, and interact with learning materials during class sessions.
Why do you expect your solution to address the problem?
In 2018, we launched a pilot program- accommodating 6 students from diverse quantitative backgrounds in Kumasi-Ghana. Students went through the program at no cost and employers paid Blossom Academy a finders fee upon placement. The academy successfully placed 5 out of the 6 students into data science roles and received $500 per student. Graduates also experienced a 600% increase in salary. From the success of the pilot, we have expanded the program to Accra- in partnership with the University of Ghana, Legon. Through this partnership, we now have direct access to university graduates from quantitative, engineering, or relevant disciplines, and working professionals for its immersive training program.
Select the key characteristics of the population your solution serves.
In which countries do you currently operate?
In which countries will you be operating within the next year?
How many people are you currently serving with your solution? How many will you be serving in one year? How about in five years?
We are currently serving 25 people through our immersive program. We are introducing a 4-week fast-track training program, which touches upon the fundamentals of data science. Through both programs, we will train 250 students in one year and secure them employment opportunities.
By leveraging low-cost set-ups at local universities, Blossom hubs are designed to enable our technical skills training and leadership development at scale. Through our university partnerships, digitizing our course content, and our expansion to other regions in West Africa, we have a target to train 100,000 youth in 5 years.
What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?
Our regions for expansion over the next year include Nigeria (2020)- in partnership with the University of Lagos, and Senegal (2022)- in partnership with the Cheikh Anta Diop University. We plan to expand to other West African regions each year.
Additionally, by incorporating realistic projects from our employer partners into our curriculum, we empower employers to create relevant data science roles within their departments. We have a target of helping 100 companies, over the next five years, create data science roles that didn't exist before engaging with Blossom Academy.
What are the barriers that currently exist for you to accomplish your goals for the next year and for the next five years?
Completion of Immersive Training
Key Target Indicators
50 total students trained
25 students per cohort, where 50% are women and 50% are men for each
3 instructors focused on 3 different specializations
90% of students trained via Immersive training securing employment upon graduation.
Maintain an approximate 51% women to 49% men job placement ratio among graduates.
Annual graduation ceremony, which is a two day datathon that includes data enthusiasts across Ghana and the West Africa region
600% increase in the salary of our graduates. The average employed Ghanaian graduate makes approximately $4000/year. After going through our immersive program, we’ve found that graduates make approximately $24000.
Irrelevant job candidates for non employer-partners
Consumer data provided by our clients gets leaked.
- Completion of Fast-Track Training
Key Target Indicators
200 students trained, where 50% are women and 50% are men
1 in-person instructor per cohort
The best performing graduates (50% women and 50% men) are included in our database to offer on-demand support. During this period, they help our Immersive Track students with repetitive data tasks.
Graduates are unable to grasp concepts taught during the 4-weeks.
How are you planning to overcome these barriers?
Mitigation for Milestone 1
Personalizing our program in a sufficient manner to address the needs of clients however, also covering a wide-range of market-driven topics and honing in on the foundational principles of data science to help our graduates adapt to any work setting.
To prevent data leakage, client data is assessed in a secure cloud environment leveraging AWS virtual private cloud and private network technologies which are also isolated from other team activity. All graduates also sign a legal document which articulates the expectations of keeping client data confidential.
Mitigation for Milestone 2
At the conclusion of the training, students work on a capstone project to prove their data science competency before graduating. We also connect students with our graduates from the immersive programs via Slack channels which enables students to have direct access to mentorship as they learn.
Select an option below:
If you selected Other for the organization question, please explain here.
How many people work on your solution team?
Full-time Staff - 3
The Development Coordinator handles the day-to-day operations of the Academy as well as provide oversight support to program mentors and see to the implementation of program modules.
The Leadership Coordinator selects data enthusiasts, devise training strategies for the Academy, oversee its implementation and assess its outcome.
The CEO supports operations and administration of advisory board by advising and informing board members, oversees design, marketing, promotion, delivery and quality of programs, and oversees fundraising planning and implementation.
Part-time staff - 6
Our part-time staff includes our 3 instructors, our project manager, our Curriculum Strategist, our and Recruitment Officer.
For how many years have you been working on your solution?
Why are you and your team best-placed to deliver this solution?
Prior to founding Blossom, CEO Jeph Acheampong (www.jacheampong.com) helped multinationals and startups use their data to maintain a competitive advantage. His role is centered around business strategy and partnerships. Our Data Strategist Jeremy Banning works as a Data Science & Analytics Senior Manager at United Technologies Digital Accelerator, where he develops machine learning models to identify high risk commercial airline jet engines susceptible to premature failure. His role is centered around curriculum development and project management. Our Program Director Fabiana Rizzieri led high-impact program initiatives at the United Nations and Impact Hub-Accra. Her role is centered around program management and workshop development.
Based on our collective years of experience, amounting to over 10 years, and a deep local understanding of product relevance and scalability, we are committed to providing economic opportunities for millions of youth across Africa.
With what organizations are you currently partnering, if any? How are you working with them?
-Partnership with Microsoft 4Afrika, giving us access to cloud space, technical experts, and proof of concept projects.
-Partnership with DataCamp, giving us access to educational content.
-Partnership with the University of Ghana and KNUST, giving us access to their top graduates and equipped facilities for training.
-Eight employer partnerships, spanning the health-tech, e-commerce, and fintech sectors.
-“Decent Jobs for Youth” approved our commitment to provide 50 students with analytical and soft skills by March 2020. Successful completion positions us to work with the ILO and UN to help shape education policy in Ghana.
What is your business model?
Our employer partners pay a fee for the services provided by students during the training program. Each partner has a major pain-point that goes unsolved; their inability to extract relevant insights from data. By offering them interns at a lower cost than previously possible, we help them become data-driven. Secondly, once we place students into companies as consultants, our clients pay us an agreed upon amount. We, in turn, pay our students during their one-year employment contract at Blossom Academy.
What is your path to financial sustainability?
Near future revenue streams will come from a flat fee in two areas; (1) fast track bootcamps, which will serve as a talent pipeline for our 6-month program, and (2) corporate offerings, such as customized training, consulting, and project assistance. We plan to focus on generating revenue from our customers in order to be sustainable in the long-run. As we expand and incorporate training in additional skills, such as Blockchain and Cybersecurity, our plan is to attract additional grand funding and donor funds.
Why are you applying to Solve?
Being supported by MIT Solve will give us access to the academic and corporate partnerships required to scale our data science offerings across Africa. Additionally, we will greatly benefit from the marketing and communications exposure needed to raise awareness about our brand and attract the appropriate stakeholders for growth.
What types of connections and partnerships would be most catalytic for your solution?
With what organizations would you like to partner, and how would you like to partner with them?
Firstly, we will like to partner with MIT for access to professors who can assist us in advancing our curriculum. Secondly, we will like to partner with the Government of Ghana to encourage local businesses to employ a percentage of home-grown talent for their digital roles. This will be beneficial to career placement.
If you would like to apply for the GM Prize on Community-Driven Innovation, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution.
The main focus of the grant is to increase the number of students trained and workshops offered; in order to achieve this there is a need for additional personnel under several focus areas such as program management, curriculum development, and leadership development.
Additionally, expertise on a contractual basis are required to support and assist in the student training programs.