Programming Education as a Chance for Dignified Employment

The IT industry is developing rapidly on a daily basis leading to a high demand for IT specialists globally. As a result, the programming training market is growing to meet the demand. Among the attractions for potential employees are the high wages and benefits, flexible working hours, and job security.

For several years, social enterprises have focused on educating future programmers because of the livelihood improvement opportunities and career mobility these positions offer. In April 2017, the Dotrzymaj Kroku Foundation launched a new coding boot camp tailored to provide young people leaving foster care institutions with the necessary training to launch their careers in BPO/IT.

We describe this social enterprise and others around the world providing IT education to communities that face the greatest barriers of entry in this field.

Programming in Poland

The Dotrzymaj Kroku Foundation, established by the Coders Lab IT School, launched its first pilot in early 2017. The "Możesz ITy" program was designed to support individuals with bleak job prospects. People leaving foster care institutions are rarely able to access opportunities beyond low-paid jobs with limited possibilities for personal development. Without the necessary support, they struggle to become independent and are prone to homelessness, extreme poverty, and crime. Coders Lab decided to offer an intensive programming course, a boot camp based in its proven didactic methodology, to youth leaving foster care institutions and complement it with soft skills workshops to improve their career outcomes.

The programme offers over 300 hours of training tailored to the individual interests and predispositions of the student, among them exposure to multiple coding languages and tools for building applications, websites or games for back-end or front-end development. The third of the development paths available for the pupils of the Foundation is an IT tester's course, with slightly lower requirements for technical abilities. 

In 2017, ten young people completed the boot camp, obtaining the necessary competencies to work in the IT industry in junior positions. This year, another group of 12 young people, coming from orphanages and foster families from all over Poland, joined the program.

Acquiring the qualifications that are in high demand in the labor market is the first step to achieving a good quality job. As part of the NESsT Empowers programme, we support these initiatives because we believe in their effectiveness as tools in combatting social exclusion.
— Gabriela Cichowicz, NESsT Portfolio Manager in Poland

The EY Foundation hosted workshops on interpersonal communication and assertiveness and on entering the labor market at its headquarters with participants of the programme. Other partners include UBS, which offers students opportunities to understand the granular details of working in IT-related roles at a workshop in its Krakow headquarters.

This summer, students will continue to learn programming and/or testing mobile applications and collaborate with experienced mentors currently working as programmers. As part of the NESsT portfolio, Coders Lab receives financial investments and business mentoring support to refine its business model, social impact, and impact measurement of the acquired skills and work of students.

Integration through programming in Finland

Social enterprises that train people from marginalized groups to work in the IT sector extend beyond Poland. Integrify headquartered in Helsinki works with immigrants in their communities. This social enterprise leads a one-year program that prepares its students to work as full-stack programmers, a person who combines both front-end and back-end developer skills.

At the recruitment stage, it is not essential to have experience or programming knowledge. For the first half of the year, students take part in full-day classes in the classroom formula. The remaining six months are internships at partner companies. The pilot edition of the training took place in 2016, and as a result, all students obtained employment. The Integrify blog presents the stories of graduates of the course, including Tareq from Bangladesh, who, thanks to the training, made his first steps in the IT world. At the end of April, another group of 26 people started the course, and the team plans further dynamic development of the company to create 10,000 jobs in Europe by 2030.

Training women programmers in Latin America

An interesting example of a social enterprise training to work in IT companies is the Peruvian Laboratoria established in 2014, which currently also operates in Mexico, Brazil and Chile. This social enterprise supports young women from low-income families, providing them with access to knowledge, the opportunity to gain work experience and work in the digital technology sector. Laboratoria recruits talented women and offers them a personal development program and coding lessons. The free five-month course includes knowledge of website design, entrepreneurship in technology industries, and English, and develops soft competencies of participants. Many students, upon completion of the course, are employed as programmers in the webShop belonging to Laboratoria, or are contacted by companies seeking talented programmers. By now, the social enterprise has trained 820 women and 80% of them found employment, thanks to which their income increased on average threefold.

Digital education globally

Another example is the French Simplon, operating since 2013. The social enterprise has created a network of partner organizations offering training in more than 40 locations in France and abroad, including Romania, South Africa and Colombia. Among the Simplon students are refugees, youth defined as marginalized by the school system, long-term job seekers or people forced to retrain. The social enterprise has already trained over 2,000 people, preparing them for work not only at the positions of web application programmers, but also trainers or IT project managers. In addition to regular professional courses combined with internships, the company implements programs promoting digital education among children and women. Thanks to these activities, currently 35% of Simplon graduates are women, but according to the company's plan until 2019, girls will make up half of the student population.


Each of the described enterprises has its own teaching methodology and business model, but they share one thing: they believe that in the IT industry there is room for thousands of people currently encountering the greatest difficulties in the labor market. The results of their actions —the employment rate of graduates even at the level of 100% — speak for themselves and prove that by creating the right conditions for the personal development of students and building good relationships with future employers, you can change the world.

NESsT is happy to support the Coders Lab team and the Dotrzymaj Kroku Foundation as part of the NESsT Empowers initiative, made possible in Poland thanks to J.P. Morgan, Credit Suisse, Fossil, PwC and the Sage Group.