Companies urged to join initiative to help asylum seekers become techies

Tech firms called upon to help pay for training for people in direct provision

Zartis, an Irish tech company that has bankrolled training in software engineering and digital marketing for people fleeing violence and oppression, has called on other technology organisations to join with it to double down on the amount of support it can provide.

The Cork-based software consultancy, which employs about 240 people, launched its LevelUp social initiative in 2018 to help asylum seekers and refugees find professional roles in the tech sector.

Some 30 people have graduated from LevelUp, with individuals either gaining a qualification in full-stack software development from the Code Institute or alternatively one in digital marketing from the Digital Marketing Institute.

The LevelUp initiative identifies suitable candidates and gives them free online training, mentoring and introductions to potential employers. The programme is funded and operated on a voluntary basis by Zartis employees.


Zartis has since expanded on its original initiative, setting up a networking group for women software engineers from Afghanistan who have had to flee the country, and introducing a new programme to provide online training and internet access women across the Middle East.

“We are unashamedly international in our outlook with employees coming from over 30 countries. This obviously played a part in our deciding to set up the initiative we’re involved in. But we’ve also found it of huge benefit to the company in terms of retention as staff are proud to work for a company prepared to back projects like these,” said Padraig Coffey, chief executive of Zartis.

“We’re now looking to expand the programmes we run and are urging other firms to provide between say €5,000 and €10,000 each to really double down on this. For well-funded tech companies this isn’t a huge amount to ask for and not only would it go a long way to helping people in Direct Provision but will also help train up more people, something which is of benefit given the war for talent,” he added.

Direct Provision centres

There are more than 7,000 people living in Direct Provision centres across the State. Asylum seekers in the Republic gained the right to work in June 2018, but many still face major barriers in gaining access to employment.

One of the people to graduate from the LevelUp initiative as a full stack developer is Syed Rizvi from Pakistan. Mr Rizvi was living in Temple Accommodation Centre in Moate, Co Westmeath, with little to do while he waited to find out whether he could legally stay in the country, when he heard about the programme. With a degree in mechanical engineering and a higher diploma in computer science, he was an ideal candidate for training.

"LevelUp helped me immensely to get the confidence to go out there – especially while being at a massive disadvantage as living as an asylum seeker in Ireland – and look for jobs," said Mr Rizvi, who now works as a software engineer at Ericsson.

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor is a former Irish Times business journalist