In the midst of the 2016 refugee crisis, a staggering 67 million people were displaced worldwide. Today, that figure has skyrocketed to 117 million, meaning 1 in 67 people grapple with the challenges and stigma linked to forced displacement. Over half of these refugees reside in Europe, and in the U.K., migrants are four times as likely to be unemployed. Meanwhile, the U.K.’s demand for engineering talent is “soaring.”
Behind each statistic lies a person with a wealth of untapped skills and determination facing significant barriers to employment. Tech companies have both the responsibility and the opportunity to bridge this gap. Slack recognizes that the power of transforming corporate philanthropy goes beyond just writing checks, and that one of the greatest assets we can provide to our community partners is our employees and their expertise.
Slack’s philanthropic mission is to increase the number of people from historically underrepresented groups in the tech industry. Our marquee initiative, Next Chapter, has successfully trained and placed nearly 50 formerly incarcerated graduates into engineering tech jobs, and was originally created by a dedicated team of Slack volunteers and staff. The success of Next Chapter inspired us to take what we’ve learned to create a new program focused on the worldwide refugee crisis.
Today at Salesforce World Tour London and in honor of World Refugee Month, Slack is excited to announce our next step in creating tech employment pathways: CYF+. This pioneering career accelerator combines an open-source curriculum with work placement at a major tech company, with Slack proudly serving as its inaugural hiring partner. CYF+ is an extension of our longstanding partnership with CodeYourFuture, a U.K.-based coding training program for refugees and disadvantaged individuals.
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Unlocking potential with CYF+
CodeYourFuture’s existing program equips refugees and displaced individuals with both fundamental and advanced engineering skills. The newly introduced CYF+ training acts as the final educational phase, bringing together an eight-week advanced open-source curriculum with a six-month paid work placement at a tech company, providing a comprehensive learning and practical experience.
The curriculum, developed by a team of Slack engineers and volunteers from other leading tech companies, is specifically geared toward training refugees and displaced individuals in site reliability engineering (SRE), a critical and highly demanded skill in modern engineering. CYF+ provides trainees with practical experience in core infrastructure and cloud foundations, including data stores, traffic management and service networking.
My dream is for CYF+ to have a lasting and far-reaching impact on the lives of refugees and displaced individuals.
Q&A with CodeYourFuture at Slack Lead, V Brennan
We spoke with V Brennan, a senior director of software engineering at Slack and the lead for CodeYourFuture at Slack, about the program and its potential to create opportunities for refugees in Europe.
Your first visit to CodeYourFuture was in 2019. Can you share that experience and how it inspired you to spearhead the creation of CYF+?
The success of Slack’s Next Chapter in the U.S. inspired us to explore new ways to create job opportunities for those traditionally overlooked. Our visit to CodeYourFuture in 2019 convinced us that we could contribute to addressing the refugee crisis in Europe.
Throughout my career, I’ve led global teams and have always been passionate about nurturing emerging talent. I met many people at CodeYourFuture who had already completed advanced coding programs and were ready for further development. We believed that an open-source, hands-on program focused on site reliability engineering, followed by a work placement, would empower aspiring engineers with the knowledge and expertise to thrive in tech roles. And from that, the idea of CYF+ was born.
Why did you choose to focus this program on SRE?
Today’s boot camps and coding programs predominantly focus on front-end development, leaving a significant gap in training for SRE. We recognized the opportunity to build a training program focused on the essential SRE skills our industry needs.
SRE is a deeply technical field that focuses on the infrastructure layer and constructing robust distributed systems. It requires a strong understanding of the complexities involved in building reliability into the core infrastructure, which ultimately enables us to develop exceptional products. Many SRE professionals have dedicated years to honing their expertise in infrastructure, so CYF+ provides hands-on baseline experience for trainees in SRE.
Can you share more about CYF+ and what went into its development?
We wanted to ensure that the program equipped graduates with the right skills, so engineers from my team collaborated with CodeYourFuture and a few other engineers at leading tech companies to design the program. Each module identifies and dives into the essential components to thrive in our field. It’s practical and applicable to the real work we do every day in SRE.
We knew that training alone wasn’t enough to provide long-standing employment pathways for graduates. We believe that hands-on work experience is the most effective form of education. This is what sets CYF+ apart; we blend the best aspects of classroom learning with practical experience to ensure that our graduates possess the necessary skills to secure a full-time engineering position in tech.
What is your vision for the future of CYF+?
My dream is for CYF+ to have a lasting and far-reaching impact on the lives of those who complete the program and for us to provide opportunities for refugees and displaced individuals in the tech industry. I would love to see the program expand, with more graduates and more tech companies joining Slack and Salesforce in providing opportunities for graduates. Together, we can bring opportunity and lasting change to talented engineers around the world.