Helping refugees learn to code and find employment

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A few weeks ago, on a sunny Sunday afternoon, I travelled to North London to meet the team and students behind Code Your Future. 

They are, in their own words, “a non-profit organisation supporting refugees with the dream of becoming developers.”  Code Your Future wants to help refugees and asylum seekers, “in their journey of interrupted lives, unfinished studies and integration challenges”, who “yearn to update their tech skills, but lack learning opportunities.”

We also want to help.

Rapid advances in digitisation and automation are creating many new opportunities and jobs.  Estimates indicate there will be a demand for 1.2m additional technical and digitally skilled people in the UK by 2022.  But not everyone has the same opportunity to be work-ready. According to the UN, there are 121,837 refugees in the UK – and over 40,000 asylum seekers.  Many lack access to vocational training. Over 50% of refugees with formal education and qualification remain unemployed for several years.

Our new partnership with Code Your Future aims to help address this, with a six-month training course for our first cohort of 25 students.  70% of course participants are expected to find employment within six months – and we’re hoping that ten of those, will join our team at Capgemini.

The classes in action – collaborative learning spaces

Regular weekend lectures and collaborative tutor groups are key for the students to support their online learning around other commitments.  I wanted to see a class in action. I had no idea what to expect. To my surprise I had one of the best and most thought-provoking days I’ve had for a long time.

The mood in the class was warm, friendly and supportive.  At one end of the space 16 students were participating in a lecture given by a volunteer on how to use the React JavaScript framework to develop web applications.  In the middle of the room, several volunteers from both technical and business backgrounds were working together to plan out development projects. And at the other end of the room, a group of graduates from previous courses were meeting to discuss projects and support each other with tricky technical challenges.

Supporting interrupted lives

Over lunch I met both participants and volunteers and I reflected, not for the first time, how much they had left behind, and how much they had to give. This communal lunch provided by the students, is an important part of the day because CYF isn’t just a training course – it’s a support structure and network made up of like-minded people who invest their time and skills to help the bright and talented individuals who have had their lives interrupted.

A student originally from Sudan showed me the application he is developing as part of a paid project for the UN. He’s designing and building a system to capture refugee applications. A key step in the data capture process is to understand previous work experience so that the refugees can be directed to appropriate opportunities. Although the application was written in English, he had created a function to enable CVs to be written in both English and Arabic to suit the refugee applicant.

Another student I met finished the course two years ago and he now works for a small media company. Since graduating he has progressed from managing the content on his company’s website to being responsible for the on-going development and management all the firm’s web platforms. He was there to support his wife who is also hoping to move into the technology industry.

The doors to our first Coding Academy open later this year. Applications are encouraged from those who may have been displaced from work or lack confidence to gain employment, and any potential candidates can apply via https://codeyourfuture.io/students

For more information about our commitment to social impact and digital inclusion, please visit our website.

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