I first became aware of Code Your Future (CYF) through BIMA member, Alec McCrindle, who is a volunteer on this programme in London. He quickly connected me with Gianluca in Glasgow and I have been learning about CYF ever since.
CYF is “a non-profit organisation supporting refugees and disadvantaged individuals with the dream of become developers”. The first cohort was launched in 2016 on an 8-month web development programme, coached by professional developers. London is now running its sixth programme, Manchester its third and fourth in Glasgow. Rome and Medellin have launched their first classes. There is a very strong appetite to keep on growing.
In addition to web development, the programme covers non-technical skills too, to help the students progress their learning, enhance broader work based skills and extend their support community. Many of the students have an eye-watering level of academic achievement and experience to bring to the programme and all speak English.
It is undoubtedly a brilliant initiative delivering on so many levels, to name a few:
- Providing real learning and employment opportunities for refugees
- Creating a new and growing community of students, mentors, tutors and general volunteers
- Delivering new talented people from diverse backgrounds to bridge a much needed industry skills gap
- Bringing communities and industry closer together in collaboration
So much of what CYF achieves is through its passionate and skilled volunteer community, without them the programme would not be able to run. Another challenge is increasing the profile of CYF across industry as many companies who would benefit from their graduates do not seem aware of the programme. Cap Gemini has been quick to catch on and supports CYF in London. More support of this kind is needed across the UK to enable the programme to truly flourish, benefiting the students and industry crying out for fresh talent.
If CYF is new to you please check them out here and see how your could support and benefit from this unique programme.
Please also read a couple of the stories below from the current class in Glasgow. I hope to be able to share more stories soon.
Meriem and I met for a coffee on Saturday before a full day of learning at CYF. Her warm, smiley and bubbly personality shone through immediately and throughout our conversation it was clear to me how much Meriem appreciates and respects those around her. She never misses an opportunity to explain when someone has helped her, to reflect on the kindness of others and to spotlight the particular skills and talents from friends she has met through CYF.
Glasgow has been Meriem’s home for five years. With a Bachelors in Computer Science and speaking English, Arabic and French – Meriem has a lot to offer and many other skills and learning besides. In addition to her new found skills in development she also loves music and singing and is pursuing drama classes too. It strikes me she is melding together the much valued skills and experience of arts and science that are considered so important in tandem today.
We talked a bit about her experiences of living in Glasgow and she said she has met with much kindness over the years. It was interesting that one of her early observations was she was shocked at how open people were, how even vague acquaintances would share personal snippets of their life as it is something she was not used to. She has come to love this about Glaswegians and it has endeared her to the city.
We moved on to talk about CYF which Meriem did with much animation. She explained there are 15 students on the current cohort and they represent over 12 different countries. It is very clear from Meriem that the students have developed a really strong bond and support network between themselves with a strong emphasis on inclusivity as well as technical learning being a key part of the programme. It is evidently embraced and valued by them all. She explains the students all speak in English to ensure no one is excluded from conversations.
Meriem is also studying at the City of Glasgow but with only weeks to go before Meriem graduates from the CYF programme, her eyes are on opportunities to work to put her newly honed skills to good use.
The first thing you notice about Youssef is his big warm smile. After spending some time chatting what I discover is a brave, intelligent, skilled, adaptable and warm hearted man. I met Youssef at a CYF Saturday learning session run largely by volunteers. He has been in Glasgow exactly two years, having left his home country of Egypt.
Graduating from university in Egypt with a degree in Chemistry and Microbiology, Youssef found careers using this degree were few and far between and shifted towards IT – a natural move as he loves working with computers. Before leaving Egypt he managed the family plastics recycling business to help his dad out.
Youssef came to the UK with his wife and two children in search of safety. Initially arriving in London he was quite quickly moved to Glasgow where they have worked hard to make a life for themselves. Unable to engage in paid employment due to their residency status Youssef and his wife have both been volunteering in community focussed projects, driven by a desire to give back, to be part of their new community, keep learning and be industrious. Their status causes economic constraints and I ask Youssef how he manages, but he simply replies that they love the way of life here, they are very grateful for what the country has done for them, and above all, they feel safe. I sense he treasures the safety and I also see in Youssef an incredibly adaptable human being, ready to take what life throws at him and make the best of it.
We talk about his children settling at school and he marvels at the Scottish Education System, with such a different learning system to what he had and he talks only of how helpful and welcoming the people of Scotland have been to him.
In addition to volunteering Youssef has been studying and this includes his placement on CYF which he has thoroughly enjoyed, grasping at every opportunity to improve his coding skills and build up his language knowledge. They work in teams and a fellow team member referred to him as “the genius of the group”. The experience and learning has been invaluable for Youssef and he is hoping he is able to apply these skills to a new working role soon. In the meantime he keeps learning.
With their status undetermined Youssef merely states “I have to use this time in a good way. I cannot waste it”.