Global accounting and consulting firm Deloitte has set up a programme to improve the digital skills of young Saudis and help them learn about the latest trends in e-commerce as part of the kingdom's push to develop its non-oil sector and create jobs for nationals.
The initiative will help young Saudi citizens prepare for the digital revolution and the future of work by creating a springboard for participants that will improve their employment prospects in the e-commerce field, Deloitte said on Sunday.
Consumers in Saudi Arabia account for the lion's share of online purchases in the Gulf region and the shift to e-commerce is mainly driven by the kingdom’s young population, rising broadband and smartphone penetration rates and the government's growing focus on the sector, said Rashid Bashir, head of government and public services at Deloitte Middle East.
"The kingdom is in a strong position to capitalise on these trends to increase youth employment opportunities, spark a local start-up and entrepreneurship mindset in the field and attract global and regional players to operate in the kingdom, all of which are hinged on the supply of skilled Saudi youths [who make up] the necessary workforce to enable such transformation," he said.
The Covid-19 pandemic has hastened the consumer shift to online shopping in the Middle East, leading to a boom in the region's e-commerce sector.
E-commerce sales in the Mena region are set to triple to $28.5bn next year, from $8.3bn in 2017, according to research by Bain & Company and Google.
Saudi Arabia, a major e-commerce market in the Gulf, is looking to upskill its workforce as part of a broader plan to reduce its economic reliance on oil, create jobs, attract talent, encourage entrepreneurship and boost investment.
Deloitte's programme is being conducted at the Deloitte Digital Centre in Riyadh, which provides participants with digitisation tools and hands-on, real-life experiences on the accounting consultancy's method of work.
Deloitte partnered with global cloud-provider Amazon Web Services and German software maker SAP to develop the programme's curriculum, which is being delivered in a hybrid format, in which training sessions focused on science, technology, engineering and maths, as well as digital, analytical and entrepreneurial skills.
The sessions addressed the most topical e-commerce issues in the current business landscape, including data analytics and marketing, cloud storage and software development, according to Deloitte.
Programme participants were chosen by Deloitte, AWS and SAP using specific criteria. A pool of more than 7,000 applications was whittled down and the top 25 applicants were chosen for an initial pilot version of the programme.
"The trainees benefited from learning easy-to-use AWS cloud solutions that can support their e-commerce capabilities," said Omar Saleh, public sector lead at AWS Saudi Arabia.
"The participants were given hands-on workshops covering customer engagement services, as well as advanced technology such as machine learning and data analytics to enable them to forecast, analyse marketing campaigns and build personalised shopping experiences."
The programme to develop in-demand skills in Saudi Arabia equipped participants with the skills needed to accelerate a digital and e-commerce transformation in the kingdom, said Ahmed Al-Faifi, senior vice president and managing director of SAP Middle East North.
It also delivered technical training and engaged youths through workshops on innovation.