Though the immediate pressures Germany faced during the 2015–16 European migration and refugee crisis have eased somewhat, the country is grappling with a new challenge: helping refugees find work and establish themselves economically. Given Germany’s aging population and growing skill shortages in the information technology (IT) sector, policymakers, civil-society groups, and industry leaders have been captivated by the idea that refugee workers could step in to fill these critical gaps.
This report examines the rationale for training refugees for tech jobs and takes stock of the coding schools that have emerged in Berlin and beyond to help refugees prepare for careers in software development. To explore the wide range of program sizes, instructional philosophies, and funding models, the report takes an in-depth look at three such schools—Devugees, the ReDI School of Digital Integration, and CodeDoor—drawing on interviews with coding-school staff, refugee alumni, and IT professionals. It also sets out recommendations for policymakers interested in supporting the growth and success of coding schools.
Tech jobs, this analysis finds, are uniquely well-suited to the situation, skills, and needs of refugees. For example, university degrees are not the only path to a successful IT career, with employers instead valuing demonstrated skills—a potential boon for refugees who were forced to flee without completing their education or gathering the documents to prove their credentials. To ensure that students acquire both the technical and soft skills to succeed in the IT field, promising coding-school practices include helping students understand German workplace norms and develop a habit of continual, self-directed learning. And while this path may not be a good fit for all, the positive spillover effects of helping even some refugees into tech jobs are considerable, including higher incomes for their families and expanded professional connections for entire communities.