Three self-taught web-entrepreneurs from low-income backgrounds have created the school they wish they had been able to attend themselves. Inspired by American “boot camps” offering intensive training programs, Simplon.co offers web-programming courses for people underrepresented in the digital field, notably women and individuals from underprivileged families.
The first class, made up of 24 students, began last September in the Parisian suburb of Montreuil. Many students are professionals seeking new skills or entrepreneurs planning to develop their community- and solidarity-oriented digital projects. Over the course of 6 months, students learn a programming language that enables them to develop internet applications and websites. They are also introduced to design, ergonomics, and data administration.
Encouraging women to acquire digital skills
The training program is open to men and women, but, as Simplon.co’s executive director Frédéric Bardeau recognizes, there is a widely-held sentiment that ‘the digital world is reserved for scientists’, and women do not feel encouraged to enter this world.
According to the president of the Femmes du Numérique Commission, Viviane Chaine-Ribeiro: “Too few young women choose scientific and technical courses, often owing to lack of information. But the digital realm has a lot to offer: a great diversity of jobs in a rapidly evolving sector, attractive salaries, international opportunities, and even the possibility of creating one’s own company. This is a hiring sector, with almost 35,000 job openings each year. It’s THE path to take if you want to find a fascinating job and also to be fairly autonomous.”
Simplon.co encourages women to pursue careers in the digital field and aims to recruit more and more women into its program: if 35% of the first round of students are women, Simplon.co aims to have 50% of women in their second round. To this end, Simplon.co works hand-in-hand with associations such as Girlz In Web, which promotes women in the digital field, or the Fondation Agir Contre l’Exclusion, whose “Wi-Filles” project aims to raise awareness of digital opportunities among middle- and high-school students from Seine-Saint-Denis.
The concept of social entrepreneurship lies at the core of Simplon.co’s training program, designed to create jobs and professional opportunities for young people, notably women, in the neighborhood of the training center. Thanks to their training in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), young entrepreneurs can create their own community and solidarity-oriented digital projects. One participant wishes, for instance, to develop a cell-phone app to facilitate and promote blood donation.
Simplon.co is a pioneer school, responding to a high and expanding demand. According to Frédéric Bardeau, their teaching model has the potential to develop all across Île-de-France, throughout provinces and, thanks to “open source” franchises, even abroad.
© Women’s WorldWide Web, 2014