IT jobs for refugees and migrants

It’s a wild mess. Gossip, hands on knees, gossip, on hands, then a jump in the air. Some face each other in pairs, some form a circle. And all of them are doing the jigging exercise. Diversity needs laxity, it seems. Air jumps can not hurt there.

Sophie Jonke is heated. “This is the beginning of a structured evening,” she calls into the crowd and laughs as she stands in front of her guests, who now slowly sit down on the benches and look at them expectantly. Sophie is Local Head at the ReDI School of Digital Integration in Munich. She exudes warmth and openness – which somehow matches her job profile.

It consists of organizing free tech courses for refugees and migrants for the non-profit institution that has its headquarters in Berlin: for those who can already program and those who want to learn it. Network events and internships help to get students into jobs. “Is not it great that digitization connects people from all over the world?” She asks her students.


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The HTML CSS beginner class presents its own websites (Photo: ReDI School)

A vending machine for chocolate

Today is a big day. In the building of Stylight, an online marketplace for fashion, well over 200 computer experts have gathered. Most of them have come to Germany to escape the riots in Syria. Each course shows what he learned during the past semester. Salesforce, Cisco, or Microsoft, which is one of the main sponsors of the school, also offer courses.

On the lectern next to Sophie is a computer. There, the students open their programs. With a few formulas, there is a sales machine for chocolate outlined: 1 = Buy an article. 2 = Fill up the machine. These are the easier tasks. The beginners present their self-created website, the advanced databases and functions that they have intelligently linked together.

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Hosna Khoshkhoo comes from Iran, where she studied mining engineering. Following courses in the ReDI School, she now wants to apply for data science (Photo: ReDI School)

Hosna Khoshkhoo belongs to the advanced ones. In Iran, she studied mining engineering and later monitored public facilities such as tunnels or bridges over their condition. “As for technology, I’m not a perfect beginner,” she says. She is wearing a black and white patterned dress. She came to Munich on a student visa.

After completing a masters degree in geophysics at the university, she became interested in machine learning and data science and came across a ReDI School ad. She learned Sophie and her team – now eight employees, which are funded by more than 30 partner companies – and took courses in the fall semester. “Now I feel ready to apply for a job in Data Science,” she says, nodding.

Profit for the German economy and skilled workers from abroad

Incidentally, the ad was on Facebook. It’s the social media platform that has helped make the school’s project a breakthrough, in a way. This is how Anne Kjær Riechert describes it. The 36-year-old wears a green dress, her blond hair has tied her in a ponytail. While Sophie runs the school in Munich, she has the command in Berlin – and has made sure that the school even exists: In August 2015, she founded the ReDI School in Berlin.

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Anne Kjær Riechert (left) runs the school in Berlin, Sophie Jonke takes care of the Munich institution (Photo: ReDI School)

By chance she met Mohamed, a programmer from Syria. To compete in Berlin, he lacked two things: a computer and the right contacts. A fate that many people from abroad share. And so it happens that many young, well-trained refugees can not find work in Germany. On the other hand, according to figures from the McKinsey consultancy and the Stifterverband, up to 700,000 technology specialists will be needed by 2023. “The challenges can either be seen as a problem or as a possibility,” says Anne. The ReDI founder sees it as the latter.

As a gain for all: For the economy, which has to do with a shortage of IT professionals on the one hand. On the other hand, the jobseekers from abroad who have experience and the motivation to earn a living by programming.

The idea came to her shortly after the meeting with Mohamed. On Facebook, she asked, “If we found a tech school for civics – who can help?” – and received more than 30 answers, the strength of her community is due to her work at the Berlin Peace Innovation Lab Japan to Berlin, which benefited from her many years of experience with aid projects Half a year later, in February 2016, the first course of the ReDI School, then called Rufees on Rails, started with 42 students.

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Abdulsalam Hamdan works today at Maiborn Wolff in Munich and teaches two evenings a week at the ReDI School, his former school (Photo: ReDI School)

Among them was Abdulsalam Hamdan. The native Syrian was already in Berlin. He first learned German and studied electrical engineering, then looked for a job. Again it was Facebook, where he was made aware of the ReDi School: He took courses, which dealt with the technology Internet of Things, and got numerous contacts.

Today he works at Maiborn Wolff in Munich and teaches two nights a week at his former training center: purely honorary. So do 130 other teachers. All have permanent jobs as programmers, data scientists or designers and pass on their knowledge to the next generation.


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A cake at the end: ReDI School Munich is one year old

Helping others without getting money for it – that is lived humanity. And she knows neither skin color nor sex nor age. There is a place for everyone. Lotte is 63 years old and travels twice a week from Augsburg to Munich to give an evening class. The former software developer wears her hair gray and short. She is constantly greeted by students and other teachers – and she is introduced to those she does not know as “Hello, I’m Lotte”.

The computer now shows the Cisco Network & Cybersecurity class team the fabric of a network and how they can give jobs to a server, which then manipulate the entire network. And then finally the cake comes. Anne, Sophie and her team are smiling for a group photo. Because not only the students celebrate today at the Demoday graduation – also the ReDI School itself ignites a candle: The Munich School has become one year old.

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