New arrivals find jobs after IT course

Published May 24, 2017

The participants on the IT course for new arrivals to Sweden provided by KTH have graduated and are now ready for a job market that is hungry for programmers. Aiham Alkaseer hadn’t even finished the course when he was snapped up by IT consultant Xlent.

The office is in a prime location in Stockholm and the view from the third floor is impressive. A well-dressed and noticeably pleased employee at Xlent – Aiham Alkaseer – greets us in the coffee room.

Recent times have been eventful for Aiham Alkaseer. Over the course of six months, he has gone from living in a refugee centre in Vimmerby and obtaining his residence permit to taking a course of education at KTH and then becoming a software developer at Stockholm-based Xlent.

 “I’ve only been working here for a week but it feels great, everyone is very nice and it feels like I am part of the team, even though I am usually shy in the beginning.”

He explains that he already on his first working day was pitched into one of the company’s projects and will also soon attend Xlent’s boot camp weekend, tutor students and work on developing an app for the Keep Sweden Tidy Foundation.

“The latter will be a great opportunity to practice Swedish. I have been allowed to speak English in the coffee room during the first week, but from now on it will only be Swedish,” he says.

Fled from Syria

His journey to Sweden started long before that. Aiham Alkaseer was educated in computer science in Damascus. As the risk of being summoned to take part in the war in Syria became greater, he fled to Sweden in 2013, via Lebanon and Turkey. In 2015, he arrived at a refugee centre in Småland. It then took a long year of waiting before he obtained his residence permit.

“Technically speaking, my life basically didn’t start until six months ago,” he says, referring to the arrival of the longed-for residence permit.

But the Swedish course at SFI was too slow for Aiham Alkaseer’s taste. He understood that the best way to learn the language would be in a place of work, and when he found an advertisement about KTH and Novare Potential’s IT courses for new arrivals, he did not hesitate to submit an application.

“It was intense, fast and provided an education and industry contacts. During the selection process, I realised that this was really professional.”

Demand for labour

The first courses at KTH were mainly about Java programming, in which Aiham Alkaseer was already proficient. But the studies gradually became more difficult and the last part of the course provided a real challenge. The final project consisted of developing a service and creating a business concept associated with it.

Johan Stålnacke, Head of Consulting at Xlent and Aiham Alkaseer’s manager, was a business angel on the course and assessed the participants' work from an investor perspective. He quickly noticed Aiham Alkaseer.

“Aiham's group presented an incredibly professional concept. In addition to a really exciting app – a digital quiz trail with numerous smart uses – they had really given a lot of thought to the target group, the business model and the realisation.”

The need for labour in the IT industry is huge but also very specific. Sweden is a small country, and it is difficult for IT companies to find Swedes with the right profile. These people usually already have jobs and a large professional network, so the competition for them is considerable.

Cultural differences

“Some very good IT people are now coming to Sweden, but the problem is how to identify them,” says Johan Stålnacke.

Novare Potential has an important role in this regard, as it finds suitable people, enrols them on a “hardcore education” programme and connects them with potential employers.

“I had tried to find a solution to this for a long time and am therefore very grateful for this initiative,” says Johan Stålnacke.

A useful feature of the programme at KTH, according to Aiham Alkaseer, was that participants also gained insight into and knowledge about how Swedish places of work function.

“There are major cultural differences compared to the workplaces that I have been in previously. Here we do not have the same hierarchies, there is no bossy top manager. The atmosphere is much more open in terms of having discussions, and everyone is equal. It feels good, as I believe in these values,” says Aiham.

Both Johan Stålnacke and Aiham Alkaseer hope that there will be more such courses at KTH in the future. Johan Stålnacke only has one negative thought when he turns to Aiham Alkaseer:

“I wish there were more people like you.”

Text: Anna Gullers

Aiham Alkaseer

  • Age: 26
  • Lives: Stockholm, Kista
  • Born: Syria
  • Leisure interests: Fitness training and chess

Easy to find work

KTH’s Software Development Academy rapid course of education – an intensive three-month course for newly arrived academics – seems to deliver what it promises: quickly finding suitable work for the participants. Even before the course finished in the week before Easter, 35 percent of the participants had found a job. 13 of the 23 participants now have jobs and six people are “involved in serious processes”, as KTH project manager Mattias Wiggberg puts it.

“It is a fantastic outcome. It is great to feel that one directly makes a difference for people,” he says.

Mattias Wiggberg mentions that he and his colleague Philipp Haller have applied for new funding to hold four similar courses next year.

“For next year we want to develop the concept further and, to a greater extent, digitalise and develop the teaching methods. The course could thereby also contribute to other IT courses at KTH.”

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