Refugees – the new up-and-coming talents in the IT industry

It’s a win-win situation: refugees and immigrants with IT skills are being trained by the non-profit organisation Powercoders and successfully placed in positions in the IT industry, which lacks skilled workers. This process gives them back dignity and independence.
Christina Gräni, Powercoders Switzerland

The best way to integrate refugees and immigrants is through jobs, and in many cases, these people have skills and capabilities that are in high demand. However, there is often a mismatch between supply and demand: a lack of formal qualifications, degrees that are not recognised or administrative hurdles stand in their way – and oftentimes, no one invests specifically enough in talented people with a refugee or immigrant background. One area in which supply and demand can be efficiently matched is IT. There is currently a big shortage of skilled workers in the IT industry and this will increase dramatically over the coming years – according to the industry, Switzerland is expected to have a shortage of 40,000 such workers by 2026.

Strong collaboration with the IT sector

Powercoders was founded in 2017 to address these two issues. Since then, 148 candidates, recruited through a multi-stage process, have completed our IT programme. The participants are trained during an intensive boot camp and prepared for a subsequent six to 12-month internship. Personal job coaches support them during this process.

So far, we have brought over 80 companies on board that share our vision and offer internships and jobs across Switzerland. These companies consist of start-ups as well as major enterprises and SMEs. Companies are increasingly keen to assume responsibility in society, offer opportunities to less privileged individuals and see diversity in their teams as a cultural enrichment.

We receive a lot of constructive feedback from the private sector, for example from UBS, which has already offered internships or permanent positions to nine of our candidates. Watch here to learn why: video UBS.

In addition to companies, we can also count on the commitment of many great volunteers who support our programme on their own initiative as job coaches or IT trainers and thus also contribute significantly to the success of the further path that these refugees and immigrants will pursue. This kind of volunteer work is also often done through companies with corporate volunteering programmes.

Success stories

All our participants have an iron will to persevere, to make it! About 60% of the 148 participants have so far succeeded in gaining a foothold in the IT industry (ongoing estimate). One example is Parwiz Rajabi from Afghanistan, who was offered an apprenticeship at UBS after his internship. Read the touching story of how his life took a turn for the better: “Programme for a better life”. 


The shortage of IT specialists is increasing dramatically around the world and unfortunately, so is the number of refugees. With a view to rolling the programme out worldwide, Powercoders International conducted a first pilot project in Istanbul in 2019. In January 2020, a second pilot project was launched in Turin and a third is scheduled to follow in Milan. Evaluations  are currently underway for other host cities such as Madrid and Tunis.

For more information, please visit or send an e-mail to [email protected].

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