Scottish IT firms launch coding courses for refugees

IT experts from Scotland's biggest companies have joined together to launch a coding course for refugees hoping to forge a career in the technology sector.

Mozafar Haider (far right) is one of the tutors on the coding course for refugees. He is seen here with fellow mentors and students.

Fourteen students from countries including Syria, Afghanistan, Rwanda and Ethiopia will learn coding from volunteers working for firms including Tesco Bank, FanDuel and SkyScanner, as well as graduates of Edinburgh-based digital skills academy CodeClan.

The six-month CodeYourFuture course, to be held every weekend in Glasgow, will teach students the basics of software development, with the aim of placing them in jobs at the end of the course – once their application for asylum in Scotland is granted.

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More than 1,200 Syrian refugees fleeing war in their home country have been relocated to Scotland from camps in the Middle East over the past 18 months.

Mozafar Haider was involved in teaching on the London version of the project, which is due to celebrate its first batch of graduates next month. He moved to Edinburgh in January to start a new job and soon motivated colleagues in Scotland to start their own course.

He said: “There is great demand in Scotland for these skills. It is a growing sector and companies are finding it hard to get enough people to fill the jobs.

“It is also of great benefit to the refugees. While they are waiting to have their application processed they are not allowed to work, and for people who come here, who have been through a lot at home or on the way here, the waiting is very difficult. They want to get started immediately in their new lives, but that is not possible, so to do something like this while they are waiting and feel like they are achieving something, is very helpful.”

The group hopes to set up courses in Manchester and Birmingham as well, which would mean that with London and Glasgow, 70 per cent of Britain’s refugees would have access to a CodeYourFuture school.

The organisation has had 55 applications for 14 spaces on the course, which begins on 22 April.

“You don’t need to have a technology background or a degree,” said Haider. “Some of the refugees are in the process of trying to claim asylum status. Even if they do not get it, they will be able to use these skills working anywhere in the world – it is not something you throw away.”

While asylum-seekers have priority on the course, two places will be left vacant for Scots who also want to learn to code but cannot afford to access a traditional course.

The course organisers have also fundraised to overcome problems such as providing childcare for some candidates and to pay transport costs for those who live outside of Glasgow.

CodeYourFuture will be run from classrooms provided by Many Studios in Glasgow for the first two months of the course, but is looking for space for the remaining four months.