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Challenges Refugees Face and How To Address Them

20 June 2019 | Lucy Carr-Archer | About a 5 minute read
Tags: challenge, charity, Code Your Future


It’s Refugee Week – a week that celebrates the contribution of refugees across the UK, and promotes a better understanding of why people seek sanctuary.

We spoke to Kash Karimi, Co-founder and Tech & Education Lead at Code Your Future, about the challenges refugees face, why there is such a need for Code Your Future and what businesses can do to help them find employment.

 

So, Kash – let’s start by talking more about Code Your Future. What exactly does your organisation do?

Code Your Future is a non-profit that was set up in 2016, born as a result of the refugee crisis in Europe. Myself and Germán Bencci wanted to make it easier for refugees to gain employment in the tech industry. So we set up the UK’s first refugee coding school and now run eight-month web development programmes across the country.

 

At a high level, can you capture for us your sense of the primary challenges that refugees face?

Often they can have complicated lives and come from a chaotic situation. They may have faced trauma, be separated from their families and might not know the local rules or customs. This can leave them very isolated, so they need help and guidance. A recent study showed that the refugee unemployment rate is estimated to be three times higher than that of UK-born nationals.

 

And why is there a need for Code Your Future?

In the UK, there isn’t any direct or central government strategy to help refugees find employment, meaning local authorities manage it in their own way. This leads to the need for charities to help fill some of the gaps to support the refugee community. This is where Code Your Future comes in. We act as a bridge between the refugee and tech community to upskill a diverse group whose talent is largely untapped.

We focus on coding as it is one of the most in-demand skills in the UK market and has relatively low barriers to entry – a junior developer could acquire a job after completing our eight-month full-time course, compared to a three-year degree. By upskilling refugees, we are helping the UK tech economy to address the skills gap but it additionally means refugees have access to a flourishing job market.

We started in London, but have expanded into locations, such as Glasgow and Manchester, where there are large refugee communities but also where there are volunteers to help us deliver the programmes.

 

How have you devised a course to address these challenges?

When we set up the course, we wanted to use a model that we knew worked and could be adapted – you don’t always need to reinvent the wheel! That led us to build close links with HackYourFuture, a very successful non-profit programming school based out of Amsterdam, which teaches web development to refugees. We worked with them to adapt their model, making sure we took into account the regional differences in the UK.

Now the course covers the fundamentals of HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Node.js and React. We also cover non-technical skills – from how to work in a modern tech team, to how to be effective problem solvers.

 

What can businesses do to help refugees?

A great way for employers to help is to make sure diversity and inclusion are included in their hiring process. Companies should offer the job to the candidate that is most suitable, but they should consider what suitable means. Companies can review entry requirements to ensure they are accessible to refugees, and also provide assistance to refugee applicants to verify their qualifications.

If you employ refugees, you should make sure they succeed in the workplace by continuously giving them guidance and mentorship. Teamwork is key through activities like pair programming and ensuring you create an environment where sharing is encouraged.

If you’re thinking of employing refugees and want to know more, a great resource is the recent report by the UN Research Agency, Guidelines to Help British Businesses Employ Refugees. It starts by getting the facts right and moves onto to explain the business benefits of hiring refugees and what businesses need to consider when becoming a refugee-friendly employer.

 

If you’ve been inspired by Code Your Future, you can also volunteer to teach refugees, or help the organisation grow by becoming a volunteer.

 

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About AND Digital and Code Your Future

At AND, we have been inspired by Code Your Future’s work for a while and last month we employed our first two refugees from Code Your Future’s web development programme.

They’ll be working at AND for the next six months as work experience trainees to build both their professional and technical skills. We look forward to sharing and hearing more from Elias and Than Than over the coming months, as we share updates from the programme.

To find out more about AND’s relationship with Code Your Future, have a look at our blog: Hosting Code Your Future – the UK’s first refugee coding school.

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