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Beyond coding: BeCode’s unique approach to tech education, empowerment, and corporate engagement

Amidst the festive spirit of Christmas, Secutec embarked on a quest for a purposeful charitable contribution that resonated with our cybersecurity focus and held significant social impact. Our search led us to BeCode, an institution that surpasses the conventional boundaries of a social impact-driven coding school. With a focus on individuals in vulnerable situations, the school not only imparts in-demand digital skills but also addresses societal challenges. We talked to BeCode CEO Béatrice De Mahieu about their unique approach, and how they help untapped talents to meet the needs of the job market.

 

Empowering vulnerable individuals with digital skills

When asked how the initiative started, De Mahieu explains: “BeCode was established in 2017, so we recently celebrated our sixth anniversary. The idea for a coding school was born out of a desire to address the challenges faced by young people, particularly in the aftermath of the tragic Brussels attacks in 2016. Alexander De Croo, then a key figure in digitalization efforts, envisioned a new initiative to encourage youth to pursue tech trainings. He stated that if we can support initiatives that are smaller, more dynamic, and perhaps more modern than traditional institutions, we can positively impact radicalization and guide young individuals who don’t fit into conventional educational paths.”

BeCode’s primary focus is on those individuals who are not educated, trained, or employed, as well as long-term unemployed individuals seeking a career switch. The school has a national presence and operates across four campuses – Gent, Brussels, Charleroi, and Luik.

 

Active pedagogy and training approach

The recruitment of new students involves different channels and approaches.

“Some candidates are referred by partner organizations such as VDAB, Bruxelles Formation, Actiris, and Le Forem, while others proactively contact BeCode through various other channels. However, the recruitment process is not limited to these traditional channels; BeCode also engages in several campaigns and events, reaching out to young people in various settings, including youth homes and social organizations,” according to De Mahieu.

The training is provided free of charge to students, given they are registered with an employment agency. Students receive unemployment benefits during the training and internships period to ensure they can fully concentrate on their education.

De Mahieu elaborates: “The trainings are designed as full-time day courses, spanning five days a week. The programs include long bootcamps of seven months and shorter six-week pre-training sessions. While students attend physical classes on campus, a mix of in-person and virtual learning is integrated using platforms like Moodle and Discord. This approach mirrors the real-world scenario in the IT sector, where remote work is prevalent.”

 

Supporting students throughout the entire training journey

But BeCode’s commitment to its students goes beyond the actual training courses. It extends to providing psychological support as Béatrice explains:

“ Our students can benefit from one-to-one sessions with talent coaches. It is very important to address the unique challenges faced by these individuals because they often experienced difficult situations. In addition to technical skills and psychological support, BeCode also offers several soft skills trainings, covering aspects such as resume building, interview skills, and workplace etiquette. This holistic approach aims to provide guidance to prepare students for success in the professional world by equipping them with a diverse and well-rounded skill set.”

 

Cybersecurity training: meeting industry trends and demands

As a training institution, BeCode operates within the employment domain rather than as an educational institution. Béatrice clarifies,

“Our goal is not to replicate traditional education but to offer a practical and impactful training experience leading to employment opportunities. The school is recognized by social organizations and after successful completion of the course, students receive a certificate endorsed by BeCode.”

In response to the ever evolving IT landscape, the school actively involves expert partners from the industry, such as banks and consultancy agencies, in reviewing and updating their curriculum. They initially started with junior development trainings, offering front- and back-end developer programs. Over time, BeCode introduced AI courses and, in late 2021, launched a dedicated cybersecurity training.

“BeCode’s success lies in providing students with the skills that align with the industry demands and technological advancements, making them valuable assets for potential employers. Therefore, BeCode’s curriculum is constantly evolving. This forward-looking approach ensures that students are equipped with the latest knowledge and skills relevant to the industry. Given the increasing importance and demand for cybersecurity professionals, we decided to add a dedicated cybersecurity training to our curriculum. Since the start of this course, we have trained nearly 80 students in cybersecurity through four completed bootcamps,” as De Mahieu outlines.

 

Bridging the gap

BeCode operates on a triple financing model.

De Mahieu: “The school receives subsidies ranging from 40% to 60% from public sources. Additionally, a philanthropic fund ‘Friends of BeCode’, founded by two philanthropic friends and established through the King Baudouin Foundation, contributes to the financial sustainability of BeCode*. The third channel involves partnerships with companies, where BeCode collaborates with businesses to match talent with their specific needs. BeCode profiles deviate from traditional academic qualifications, and require additional support and mentoring in the workplace. This partnership model aims to bridge the gap between the social impact sector and the corporate world.”

Béatrice De Mahieu continues: “The school actively engages with companies through various initiatives, including company pitches, guest lectures, and early involvement in the training process where we discuss their recruitment needs, the profiles they seek, and any other specific requirements. This way, the school facilitates matchmaking between students and companies, ensuring a tailored approach to recruitment.”

BeCode’s unique vision on tech education not only imparts vital skills but also addresses societal challenges, empowering vulnerable individuals. The school’s holistic model, coupled with industry collaboration, bridges gaps and guides talents toward fulfilling careers. Secutec is pleased to contribute to this cause, reflecting a collective effort within the tech community to make a positive difference.

*How to support BeCode

Created on the initiative of two philanthropists, the ‘Friends of BeCode’ fund aims to support our non-profit organisation in the development of its projects. It is managed by the King Baudouin Foundation. Donations of €40 or more per year to the Foundation benefit from a tax reduction of 45% of the amount actually paid (art. 145/33 CIR). Donations are made to the Foundation’s account Banque de la Poste IBAN: BE10 0000 0000 0404, marked 623/3780/00019

Or via the online donations page that can be found via the Support page of on BeCode.org (https://becode.org/support).

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