February 3, 2016 10:15 pm
Updated: February 4, 2016 12:07 am

The code to refugee employment

WATCH: The director of Emily Carr's Living Labs is teaming up with the high-tech startup community to provide Syrian refugees with new job opportunities. John Hua reports.

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Leave it to the high-tech startup community to tackle the issue of refugee employment in new, innovative ways.

“They’re used to starting things,” said Kate Armstrong, Living Labs Director at Emily Carr.

“They move quickly and see a problem and try to figure out how to solve it.”


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#Startland is a partnership focused on offering coding and web development training to refugees. In return, a booming industry desperate for tech talent may soon have a new pool of qualified candidates.

“We have a near 100 per cent placement with our school simply because there’s a huge demand for technology jobs here in B.C.,” said CodeCore Founder Tam Kbeili.

Kbeili came to Canada as a student from Syria before creating the coding boot camp. He says partnering up with #Startland was an easy decision.

“I wasn’t even the best developer in my high school,” he said about growing up in Syria. “Many of them, unfortunately, are now refugees.”

Through local partnerships and seed investors like Microsoft, #Startland has raised $285,000 to train 100 refugees. Another $150,000 will be raised through a crowdfunding campaign to supply them with workspaces, laptops and smartphones.

Carla Morales of the Immigrant Services Society of B.C. says the prospect of entering such a thriving market will be an exciting option. She says #Startland also breaks down certain presumptions that refugees will only be able to access entry-level work.

“It kind of gave me hope that we don’t always have to have clients going into these typical jobs,” said Morales.

The language of coding may also act as a bridge for those who have only basic English skills.

“Coding at its core is logic. Logic is language-less,” said Kbeili.

#Startland hopes to being its search for viable candidates in a couple of months with training beginning in the spring. With many startups with branches across the country, the idea could easily be open-sourced across the country.

 

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