Career accelerator creating opportunities for young Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank to become software engineers on the global market
Anera's People Leveling Up Skills (PLUS) program is a career accelerator giving young people the technical skills they need to begin successful careers. Our PLUS+Code initiative produces professional software engineers by giving participating students market-ready, adaptable coding skills and essential soft skills demanded by the industry. Graduates are placed into well-paying tech industry jobs. At least 75% of students are women, refugees, lower-income or come from other vulnerable populations.
Anera's PLUS+Code program provides an intensive 20-week training in full-stack software development followed by career mentorship to accelerate careers in IT. The pedagogy combines a technical curriculum from Silicon Valley’s HackReactor with an intense emphasis on durable skills through an immersive boot camp.
First launched in August 2019, PLUS+Code recently graduated its third cohort of students in our career accelerator pilot program. The program is committed to not just graduating students but ensuring that they are able to enter into IT careers. Anera PLUS currently has a 92% job placement rate within a year of graduation. Graduates are getting jobs with Palestinian, Turkish, Saudi, French, Czech, UK, Canadian and U.S. companies.
“PLUS is an incredible opportunity for Palestinians to reboot their lives, ultimately raising their standard of living and furthering self-determination.”
— Denise Habash, program manager for Anera PLUS
Youth unemployment throughout the Levant hovers around 50%, threatening immediate and long-term stability and prosperity. Meanwhile the regional and global tech ecosystem struggles to find market-ready software engineers with the technical and non-technical, durable job skills required to build a competitive advantage. Anera PLUS helps to close the gap between out-of-work youth and unfilled tech jobs in the region and beyond. With over one million unemployed youth in Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan, and an estimated one million IT jobs expected in the region over the next few years, PLUS+Code appears to be the right program at the right time. The pandemic will accelerate both trends — unemployment and demand for IT talent.
The pilot program has given 90 Palestinians in three cohorts, the necessary skills to secure well-paid jobs as software developers in the global IT industry. To date, PLUS learners have received scholarships from generous Anera donors. To scale the program, Anera is pursuing a financing model that will ensure sustainability by funding student tuition scholarships through a mix of donations and tuition payments from the learners and employers. Toward this end, Anera is tapping into impact investing and has created an LLC, Anera Ventures, to facilitate financing for PLUS and other impact investment-ready Anera projects.
"I had a wonderful experience. Despite COVID-19, I have purpose while staying at home. I can focus on developing my apps."
Anera’s PLUS graduates say the program has been “a life changing experience.” At the end of the course, students are often surprised to see how far they have advanced since day one. They have all said that the experience has changed their lives for the better. In addition to their technical growth, graduates talk about how the program changes their mindset and self-confidence. Most say the program exceeded expectations.
The first cohort of Palestinian students studied in Amman, Jordan. The second and third cohorts were held locally in Gaza and the West Bank respectively. Under normal, non-COVID circumstances, our PLUS coding students come together in person for 20 weeks of training and team-building. After the pandemic began, we adapted the program for the new cohorts of students from across the West Bank and Gaza by moving entirely to online learning.
I still remember the feeling when I built my first “Hello World!” project.
Dalia Awad was one the first cohort of students from Palestine who graduated from the Anera PLUS coding academy in December 2019. She recently accepted an internship at Google.
For the first cohort, we held the 20-week course in Amman. Two thirds of the selected students were from Gaza, and the rest came from the West Bank. Classes began in August, 2019. Of the 33 able to secure travel permits, 29 students — 21 young women and 8 young men — went on to graduate on December 26, 2019. Less than a year after graduation, 24 of the 26 (92%) who entered the job market (three are pursuing further studies), are now employed in the field.
Classes for cohort two, in Gaza, began in April 2020, and ran through August. Due to COVID-19, we moved the bootstrap prep phase to remote learning. Along the way a few of those selected dropped out or did not meet thresholds on commitment to the rigorous program or on advancing technical skills. Of the 45 who started classes, 32 students graduated — 21 young men and 11 young women — on August 27, 2020.
Cohort three began in the West Bank in August 2020 and graduated in December 2020. From an initial group of 44 students who began the two weeks of pre-course work at the start of August, 25 students graduated on December 31, 2020 and are now in the job placement phase.
In Their Own Words
"One of the things that enticed me was the value the program puts on developing students’ interpersonal skills."
"This job has unlocked new potential for me to grow as a professional coder. I can’t be grateful enough to have gotten a job at this young age."
"I am working on an app that will help my community. It will help local farmers and potential customers easily buy and sell cows, sheep and their dairy products from each other. Farmers can buy and sell through the app without having to go to a market. Buyers can search for a product like milk and enter the quantity needed to get quotes from farmers."
"We are gaining so much, [learning] life skills [and] coding."