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The Intel Foundation Is Betting It Can Transform Refugees Into Tech Workers

The tech company’s philanthropy is giving $1 million to the International Rescue Committee to help arm refugees with coding skills.

The Intel Foundation Is Betting It Can Transform Refugees Into Tech Workers
[Photo: courtesy IRC]

The Intel Foundation just gave the International Rescue Committee $1 million to retrain 1,000 German-based refugees for tech jobs. Their plan is to meet the needy where they evacuated with jobs that are actually dependable, and designed around a universal language: code.

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To do that, the groups have designed a program called Project CORE (Creating Opportunities for Refugee Employment): They’re collaborating to train and equip instructors at several existing job placement organizations with specifically tailored lessons plans, and then to match graduates with jobs at up to 25 companies within the country.

Finding stable work is a huge concern to those trying to resettle in Germany. Since 2015, more than 1.5 million refugees fleeing worn-torn countries have arrived there, obviously without jobs or some of the recognizable certifications that the government requires to ensure expertise in many fields.

Barri Shorey, a deputy director at IRC calls Project CORE a “great hybrid” for how corporate and nonprofit philanthropy can work. “[Intel’s] not just giving money but ultimately bringing training and expertise that then matches our training and expertise,” she says. The groups co-developed their plan of action with the express goal of helping people gain employment.

Some details, like how long each program will last and how many people will be accepted into each cohort has yet to be publicly disclosed. Short term, Intel and IRC will provide trainees with stipends (the exact amount isn’t clear yet either) as a small incentive to participate. The programming will also be free—with the idea that finances shouldn’t prevent people from getting involved.

In general, the training program will have several tracks that allow trainees to first gain the sort of basic skills they may need to gain entry-level jobs, (and immediate income) in data entry, programming, and IT work. Then, many will hopefully move on to advance their education through other services that will be offered.

Intel has launched other programs to reach disadvantaged kids in both Las Vegas and India, so there’s some blueprint as to how these efforts might evolve; the group’s Future Skills program has developed curriculum for “design thinking and new technologies, such as 3D design, drone/hybrid courses” notes Intel Foundation President Rosalind Hudnell in an email to Fast Company.

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Trainees won’t necessarily be limited to just Germany-based jobs either. Having strong computer skills means that refugees who have other commitments at home or need flexible hours can join international companies or the gig economy. Even if no one worked remote, though, there are enough jobs for everyone in Germany. IRC and Intel have studied the country’s economy and, unlike resettlement areas in Jordan, there’s a booming tech sector that’s hungry for new employees.

To hedge bets, their training partners hail from all different parts of the industry. One is a government-run job center, another is a social enterprise that wants to train vulnerable populations, and a third is a private training center, all of which will have different existing job networks in addition to Intel’s deep Rolodex. “We’re casting the net wide in terms of how we can match these skills with these jobs,” Shorey adds.

Intel has previous ties to the IRC. Its former CEO Andy Grove, who passed away in 2016, once served on the group’s board of directors and held an advisory role. Grove was personally acquainted with the mission: His family relied on IRC’s services back in 1957 when the organization helped them resettle in New York after they fled Austria. Shorey says the organization has held other tech-focused refugee trainings before but those worked more on building core skill sets. The Intel collaboration represents a new and permanent pipeline for jobs. “What’s great about this is the talent and skills and experience are market-driven,” she says.

For Intel, the mission isn’t just to groom more qualified workers. It’s “to ensure the next generation of innovators is diverse, inclusive, and empowered,” adds Hudnell.

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About the author

Ben Paynter is a senior writer at Fast Company covering social impact, the future of philanthropy, and innovative food companies. His work has appeared in Wired, Bloomberg Businessweek, and the New York Times, among other places.

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