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Refugees and migrants learning top tech skills

POTENTIAL: Rashiid with Terry Williamson, ACH’s CodeDoor training co-ordinator

AN INNOVATIVE programme run in partnership with a regional refugee resettlement service is leveraging new arrivals to the UK as a potential solution to solve the skills gap in the technology industry.

According to research by, 89 per cent of employers are expecting to be affected by a shortage of skilled technology professionals in the short term. The study by Robert Walters Manchester found that just 11 per cent of UK employers felt the nations’s tech industry is well prepared to compete globally.

Over the last 18 months, refugee integration social enterprise ACH (formerly Ashley Community Housing) has been delivering the innovative CodeDoor programme to educate refugees and migrants in coding.


CodeDoor begins with candidates taking a starter course, followed by a ‘nanodegree’, before connecting learners with its connections in the tech industry to complete the course. This not only gives students the ability to gain employment, but it also gives businesses confidence when hiring a candidate that they will have the correct skills and abilities for the job.

Birmingham-based Rashiid Jama is one of the students currently on the CodeDoor scholarship, and is in the process of studying for his nanodegree – an online certification that will qualify graduates to join the sector. To add to this success, Rashiid, 21, has also gained quality training support with The Developer Society, a not-for-profit co-operative. Originally from Somaliland, Rashiid – full name Abdirashiid Jama – lived in the Netherlands before he came to the UK, and has always had an interest in technology – following in the footsteps of his father Jacfar, who has given him further inspiration. When a family friend told him about the possibility of obtaining a scholarship through CodeDoor and ACH, Rashiid decided to apply straight away.

Terry Williamson, ACH’s CodeDoor training co-ordinator, said: “Rashiid has been the best candidate we have had on the programme so far. He picked it up quite quickly, within two weeks, where we normally expect candidates to take around four weeks. He’s been very easy to liaise and communicate with, and he is one of the few people who has truly understood the potential and opportunity that is being presented here.”

Rashiid is enjoying his course and it has helped him to expand his knowledge. He said: “Before I did this course I did have a background in Python (computer programming language), but ever since I started the course I have been exposed to new and different things and different ways of working. It’s also very engaging in the way it’s taught.”

Last September, Rashiid obtained a supported placement for three days a week with The Developer Society, which previously approached CodeDoor and ACH to see if there was a way they could facilitate a learner.

CODING: Rashiid at work

The Developer Society advocates for diversity in the workplace, and has previously partnered with groups such as DS WorkFit and Exceptional Individuals to support the building of a diverse and talented team. Thus, working with CodeDoor seemed like a perfect fit.

Steve Hawkes, co-founder of The Developer Society, added: “We’re really excited about creating opportunities for people who might not have had this opportunity before, and we’re excited about Rashiid’s future and how hopefully this might progress for him. We are happy to be as much a part of it as we can be.

“Rashiid has thoroughly enjoyed his placement so far, explaining to us how friendly the staff are and how much he has learnt. They even welcomed him with a basket of gifts, which made a fantastic first impression on him.”


Hawkes encouraged other businesses to get involved with the programme and support its focus on diversity, social responsibility and support for under-represented people.

Rashiid said: “Hopefully, after finishing the nanodegree, I will be able to find an IT job quite easily with the experiences and references I have built up from The Developer Society and the qualification I will have gained – so that’s what I hope for.”

In clarifying that the support Rashiid is receiving will not stop when he finishes his nanodegree, Terry added: “We will certainly be backing Rashiid and helping him to find a good starting opportunity for his career.”

The UK’s technology skills shortage is only predicted to get worse after leaving the EU, the prospect of which has not only created uncertainty in all industries, but has also thrown into question whether the UK’s tech talent pipeline can match industry needs after Brexit.

Skill shortages remain a major risk to long-term information security capability, and business is still struggling to defend against cyber breaches.

ACH was established in 2008 as a social enterprise, and now specialises in the economic, social and civil integration of refugees through accommodation and community based training support. It has successfully resettled more than 2,000 individuals from refugee backgrounds in this time.

Operating in the west of England and the West Midlands as a strategic partner for local authorities and government prime contractors, by establishing a subsidiary training arm, Himilo Training, it is committed to supporting refugees through work experience, language training, IT literacy and employability skills.

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