Teaching refugees IT skills could be a win-win for integration and the job market, MPI Europe research suggests
BRUSSELS — Germany has an IT skills shortage which leaves possibly tens of thousands of jobs unfilled every year, but a potential solution has emerged—teaching refugees how to code. A handful of initiatives are already showing promising signs, according to Tech Jobs for Refugees: Assessing the Potential of Coding Schools for Refugee Integration in Germany, a report commissioned by MPI Europe.
Author Ben Mason of betterplace lab, a Berlin-based think tank, identifies 16 coding schools worldwide, of which five are in Germany. They were mostly set up during 2015 and 2016 and have come into their own since the migration crisis, when hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers arrived in Germany.
One such school, CodeDoor, reported that by February 2018 more than 400 students had taken a course and 90 percent had gone on to find jobs. Another, the ReDI School of Digital Integration, reckoned it had taught upwards of 350 students, and by February 2018 had a further 270 enrolled.
"Coding schools that give newcomers the opportunity to build social networks and sharpen transferable soft skills, such as critical thinking, self-guided learning and teamwork, can provide a much-needed leg up in the labor market," Mason writes, adding that this is a "significant return on investment whether they choose to code for a living or not."
The report identifies ways of improving the current system in Germany, not least by making the rules governing such courses more flexible. Currently, a coding school wanting official certification can only employ teachers who have completed a range of tests in German—even though the courses are in English. And each tweak to course materials must be approved by a certification agency.
Relaxing these rules could help Germany to fill its shortfall of IT skills—one estimate suggested there were 51,000 unfilled IT positions in 2016 and 55,000 the following year—and serve as an example to other countries with ambitions to become IT hubs and places of successful refugee integration.
"Coding schools have the potential to contribute to a new narrative around migration, less focused on the challenges of integration and more on the opportunities," Mason said. "Digitization spells massive change and disruption for all developed economies and labor markets; a cohort of refugees trained as software developers could prove a great asset in this transition."
The report was produced for MPI Europe's Integration Futures Working Group. Supported by the Robert Bosch Foundation, the Working Group is seeking to develop a fresh agenda for integration policy in Europe by bringing together senior integration policymakers and experts, civil-society officials and private-sector leaders to create a platform for long-term strategic and creative thinking.
Read the report and earlier ones in the series here: www.migrationpolicy.org/programs/integration-futures-working-group.
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MPI Europe provides authoritative research and practical policy design to governmental and nongovernmental stakeholders who seek more effective management of immigration, immigrant integration and asylum systems, as well as better outcomes for newcomers, families of immigrant background and receiving communities throughout Europe. MPI Europe also provides a forum for the exchange of information on migration and immigrant integration practices within the European Union and Europe more generally. For more, visit www.mpieurope.org.