Saudi government launches tech sector initiative to tackle youth unemployment

Author: PM editorial | Date: 30 Nov 2016

MiSK Academy plans to train 5,000 tech leaders, developers and designers each year

Young people in Saudi Arabia are finding jobs much harder to come by than their parents who benefitted from the oil boom.
Those who spend a long time out of work may also start to worry about the next set of graduates coming up behind them and applying for the same jobs.
The slowing economy presents a challenge for Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as oil prices show little sign of a full recovery. Nearly half the country’s local population is under 25 and a quarter of those under 30 are unemployed.
As part of a plan to tackle youth unemployment and keep young people’s skills and knowledge up to date, the prince has launched three new tech-sector initiatives: MiSK Academy, MiSK Technovation and MiSK Booster.
MiSK Global Forum spokesperson Shaima Hamidaddin said: “The MiSK Academy, Technovation hub and Booster fund will offer Saudi Arabia a platform to become a globally competitive nation in technology. We recognise the unique opportunities that the future of technology will create in the global economy and we want to encourage the entrepreneurial ambition of Silicon Valley in the attitudes and approach of Saudi youth.”
The Saudi tech sector is still in its relative infancy as the country looks to broaden its horizons beyond an oil economy, so the initiatives concentrate on the creation of the sector. With international standard training, there will be a focus on building human capacity, encouraging innovation and directing funding.
The MiSK Academy will cover the range of skills needed in a digital economy and aims to train 5,000 leaders, developers and designers each year in areas such as app development, coding, artificial intelligence and gaming. The Academy will also sponsor traineeships in leading international organisations.
MiSK Technovation is where new ideas will be encouraged, developed and converted into projects that could employ people. A community of digital experts will be created, with specialisms covering programming, big data and cyber security.
The MiSK Booster is where the Technovation ideas will get their funding. It will include a venture capital fund worth an initial US$50m for investing in start-ups.
The Ministry of Labour tried another method for getting more young Saudis into work earlier this year when it brought in legislation stating all mobile phone shops must be staffed by nationals. The shops were given six months to replace all foreign staff with Saudis but more than 1,000 shops failed to meet that target and were shut down. They have been warned of permanent closure if they do not comply with the new law.