The need for talented developers is immense, but the supply is sorely lacking. And traditional education is struggling to keep up with the workfield. Enter Bit Academy, which, together with ROC Noorderpoort, is reinventing IT education to help students prepare for their future careers. Digital allrounder Bob Voorneveld talks about his role, the value of the program and why we should get rid of the stigma of vocational degrees when it comes to IT jobs.
The new, project based curriculum will officially kick off on September 1st, 2021, but Bob, who was also part of the Groningen Digital Office team, CTO of Dropper and HR Manager for CodeGorilla, has been busy behind the scenes since November 2019. “Noorderpoort has been working on incorporating digital literacy and skills for a number of years now”, Bob says. “They offered new courses such as digital citizenship, including things like online identity, privacy and security. And they also noticed how effective Bit Academy was in Amsterdam, so when I came on board as a consultant, I became responsible for setting it up in Groningen.”
The Bit philosophy
The Bit Academy is a part of Bit, a research and prototyping studio based in Amsterdam and headed by 50 young tech talents. Their mission: to fast-forward the impact of emerging tech, by building hardware, software and AI prototypes. They do this for a number of leading companies such as ING, Heineken, Louwman and NS. “They started as a bunch of ambitious, recent graduates who wanted to do awesome projects”, Bob says. “But these projects are also great educational tools for future graduates.”
“And the workfield is ever changing and rapidly evolving of course, with new technologies, developments and coding languages, for example”, Bob continues. “For traditional education, with standard lesson plans and educators that aren’t working professionals, it’s pretty much impossible to keep up with all those changes. So Bit Academy decided to rebuild these courses from the ground up and strip away anything that wasn’t essential for certification or quality standards for degrees.”
The vocational stigma
Bit Academy also deliberately focuses on vocational education, not higher education like universities or universities of applied sciences. A move Bob fully agrees with: “The prevailing stereotype still is that you need to be some kind of highly intelligent super nerd to have a successful career as a developer or programmer, which just isn’t true. A motivated vocational student can be just as good of a programmer as someone with a higher degree. And there is an enormous shortage already, so we need a lot of people from all levels of education to be able to fill those job openings.”
According to Bob, IT companies still tend to be a little hesitant when it comes to hiring vocational students or offering internships. “Don’t get me wrong, a lot of companies are already doing a great job with this, but many are also a little hesitant, because they’re not sure the quality of education is up to par. And that’s very understandable, but that’s something we’re working on changing, by trying to involve them in the program, as coaches or helping them with current projects.”
Real world projects and ‘in time learning’
The Software Developer course, in which young people are trained to develop software for various applications such as websites, games and mobile apps, is partly offered in the digital workshop Kasteel.gro. The program ensures that students, who want to become software developers, learn skills in a different way, so they can better deal with the current rapid changes in their field. “And instead of traditional teachers, students work with professionals in the field. Thanks to this collaboration, students are able to work on realistic assignments from the business world and learn from seniors and coaches”, Bob explains.
The Software Developer course also introduces the principle of 'in time learning.' “Students have to do research on their own by trying things out”, Bob continues. “In doing so, they run into problems and are more open to absorbing material about the required method of working. Another important principle is collaboration: you learn together instead of individually. This means not only making assignments together, but also coaching each other, giving feedback and asking for help.”
Bit Academy Groningen is always on the lookout for more mentors and students, collaborations and real world projects. If you’re interested in grabbing a cup of coffee to talk about the possibilities, drop Bob a line here: firstname.lastname@example.org or 06-23351272