18 May 2017

Project Integration: Helping refugees find IT jobs

In Switzerland, only 2.7% of asylum seekers that can legally work, do so - due to language barriers, but also to a lack of adequate skills. With Switzerland facing a deficit of IT workers, Graduate Institute student Vincent Baumgartner (Master in Development Studies) co-founded Project Integration in October 2016 to train refugees and asylum seekers with IT skills, allowing them to access jobs in the Swiss IT sector.

“I became interested in the interaction between technology and the humanitarian sector last summer when I did an internship for Flowminder”, says Vincent. “After reading articles about projects aiming to teach refugees how to code in Germany, I decided to set up a similar project in Geneva with my friend Priya Burci, and that’s how Project Integration was born.”

“We started our pilot class in November 2016 and we currently have 25 students who are studying the basics of web development (HTML, CSS and Javascript) twice a week for free. Our teachers are all professional coders who work for local startups and UN agencies. The Impact Hub and Geneva Red Cross provide us with the space and we got a donation of more than 20 refurbished laptops through Global Shapers. We are working towards placing our students in paid internships and traineeships once they graduate, and several companies have already approached us, demonstrating the wider interest of employing refugees and asylum seekers in the Swiss tech industry. Our goal is to have 50% of women in our classes, and we are working with various partners to achieve this.”

“In 2-3 months, we will launch our project in Lausanne and we would like to expand to new locations. We are also going to work together with Emplab, an NGO offering an introductory programming course for 12 to 15 years old girls in Ukraine. We are also thinking about launching a for-profit digital agency focusing on diversity and to offer our services to NGOs and IOs.”

GET INVOLVED! Project Integration are looking for volunteers to teach (coding class and beginner computer class) or to help with communication and fundraising. They are also looking for hardware (laptops, screens, USB sticks, etc.). Visit www.projectintegration.ch or email info@projectintegration.ch.

Learn more in our video with Vincent and Priya below.