UK-based NGO brings free, accessible tech training to Israeli Arabs in Nazareth

The Founders and Coders bootcamps are non-commercial, peer-led programs, meaning that applicants will receive the training for free from a cadre of mentors who do this voluntarily.

Tsofen encourages the establishment and development of hi-tech centers in major Arab cities and communities. (photo credit: Courtesy)
Tsofen encourages the establishment and development of hi-tech centers in major Arab cities and communities.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Founders and Coders, a London- based nonprofit organization that specializes in hi-tech education, is opening its first international project in Nazareth.
Nazareth’s first coding boot camp will start in February 2017, in partnership with the British Embassy’s UK-Israel Tech Hub and the Nazareth Cultural and Tourism Association.
Each boot camp will run for six months. The goal is to make hi-tech jobs more accessible for the Israeli-Arab residents of the Galilee, and to help employers find the skilled workers they lack.
“We are hoping that we can plug into the existing nascent business and start-up community in Nazareth. It’s not as developed as London or Tel Aviv, but there is something there, and we think that there’s enough there. I think we can offer something that other people can’t and it is something that people there don’t necessarily have access to,” Dan Sofer, founding director of Founders and Coders, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
Founders and Coders runs a tuition-free, peer-led coding academy in London. The organization engages with the community by providing technical expertise and training to nonprofits, local businesses and early-stage startups.
Income comes from recruitment fees paid by employers when they hire their graduates.
According to Sofer, the model has worked successfully with local government, and with public and private sector employers, who are seriously challenged by the shortage of skilled workers.
Coding boot camps came out of Silicon Valley about six years ago in response to the global shortage of Web developers.
The program provides intensive technical training for individuals with little or no coding background. The focus of training is on relevance to current market needs.
The Founders and Coders boot camps are noncommercial, peer-led programs, meaning that applicants get free training from a cadre of volunteer mentors.
“Most such boot camps are run commercially and charge anything up to $20,000,” Softer told the Post.
“Still, we have been running very successfully in London, and even as a business model we are able to break even. We have also been getting a lot of support from employers and a wide array of organizations who work with our students – who are then employed by them once they graduate,” he said.
“I always had the idea in mind to do a peer-led model that can be replicated anywhere in the world. It has probably taken us three years to get to the point where we felt confident that what we’re doing in London can go elsewhere.”
Last year, Sofer met Rebecca Radding, who is now the director of international development for Founders and Coders.
It was her suggestion to create a boot camp in Israel and make it accessible to the Israeli-Arab community.
“I lived in Jerusalem in college, and have always been interested in projects that have community development as their goal and help people live on more equal footing,” Radding said.
“In addition, I am an educator by profession, and in particular I am quite passionate about educational projects.
I am quite familiar with the challenges Israeli-Arabs face entering employment. So when I learned about Founders and Coders, it was a natural fit for me and I could see how they could be a great fit for Nazareth. I advocated pretty hard for this project to happen, not just in Israel but specifically in Nazareth.”
According to Sofer, the boot camp will take place in a work space in the center of town given specifically for this project for free by “significant Nazareth-based individuals.”
Currently, they are preparing the space as well as accommodations for future trainees and their mentors.
“We know for a fact that we have a pool of motivated young individuals in and around the Nazareth area who want to ‘up-skill’ themselves,” Sofer said.
In August, Founders and Coders advertised for scholars to come to London to receive training that they could later take back to their communities.
Esraa Jbara from Taybeh and Shireen Zoaby from Nazareth answered that call and are now attending the London program.
In February, they will join the Nazareth coding boot camp as mentors to the first group of trainees.
According to Sofer, in addition to Zoaby and Jbara, there will be a revolving cast of mentors coming from the UK for two-to-four week periods throughout the six-monthlong boot camp. Nazareth developer-in-residence will be Eoin McCarthy, a senior Founders and Coders alumnus, whose job is to make sure the program runs the same as in London.
“We are confident that given enough time and given enough effort, people will be able to find work in and around the Galilee, possibly in Haifa, possibly in Nazareth itself, but also in Tel Aviv,” said Sofer.
Interested individuals can apply on the Founders and Coders website,