COVID-19, or the Coronavirus, has a severe impact all throughout the world. It also has an impact on us, Open Cultural Center, and COVID-19 affects most of our projects, including Migracode Barcelona, sponsored by the European Union. Structured by different aspects, such as the impact on finances and the project output, this article clearly describes the effects of COVID-19 on Migracode Barcelona, but also how we plan on tackling the potential issues that have or will come forward because of the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Please note that this article is based on the full COVID-19 Impact Report which can be opened via the button further below. Also, regarding the specific situation in Catalunya and Spain, it is important to mention the following crucial moments in the COVID-19 crisis to understand the context of this article:
- 14th of March 2020: State of Alarm – Schools, public spaces closed and people only allowed to go out for work and essential supplies
- 29th of March 2020: Rising infections and mortalities – Situation in Spain becomes more critical and makes Spain the center of the global pandemic
- 30th of March 2020: Stricter measures – Only essential jobs can be carried out and citizens can only go out for essential supplies, lasting so far until the day of writing this article
- 10th of April 2020: Extension of the lockdown – Citizens have to stay inside at least another two weeks until the 26th of April, with high likely another 15 days after that, which would push the end of the state of alarm to May 10.
Impact on Activities
Like many other schools or educational institutions, Migracode Barcelona was offering their classroom activities on-site, in-person. We used both our own space in Open Cultural Center in El Born, the center of Barcelona, as well as the spaces generously offered by Glovo in their office in Poblenou. In the first space, 9 students and several instructors would gather every Tuesday from 18:00 till 22:00 and on Saturday from 10:30 to 14:30. In the Glovo space, since March 4th, 24 students and various instructors would gather on Wednesday from 18:00 till 22:00 and on Saturday from 15:00 till 19:00 to work together on the materials.
Already before the official lockdown (effective from 14/03/2020), we were preparing for a potential stop of the in-person classes, meaning we had to organise a major switch to online classes through video conferences. We did not have experience with this, which is why we started preparing in an early stage (two weeks before the lockdown), also based on what we had seen happening in Italy.
When the lockdown was put in place, we had our first online class on the 17th of March for one group, and on the 18th of March for the two other groups we have (in total 33 students). To prepare students, we contacted all students beforehand, checking their internet connection and if they had the appropriate hardware at hand. While some students had hardware issues after the lockdown was put in place, we were able to deliver new hardware to them by using a letter from OCC’s Director Didac Guillamet, allowing Migracode to go out and bring materials to students’ homes. Without this, it would not have been possible for these students to successfully continue their course.
Since Migracode and Open Cultural Center make use of G Suite for Nonprofits, provided by Google, we use Google Meet for the video conferences and to record the online classes. Migracode already made use of Slack for remote support and communication, and we have continued to do so during the COVID-19 crisis.
At the start, it was very new for students, instructors and Migracode management. However, with an amazing effort by everyone involved at Migracode, the online classes are becoming a success story. With every class improving due to new experiences, we are able to maintain the same class structure for each class. Students are still able to ask their questions, and instructors continue to support our students through one-two-one video calls and through chats through Slack, both during and between classroom activities.
While we also face new challenges, like the lack of personal contact during breaks and in the classes, which will be discussed later in this article, our switch to online classes have been successful so far. This has only been possible by the amazing support from our volunteers and the strong adaptability of our students. It also helped a lot that our partners supported us greatly, as for instance Webhelp have moved their planned soft-skills training to an online training activity for our students.
In normal times, Migracode aims to organise events every one or two months. These events are focussed on promoting inclusion and diversity in the Barcelona tech sector, connecting locals with newcomers and involving the private sector in social activities. Furthermore, the events are great opportunities for our students to get in touch with potential future employees.
Of course, like all other in-person events, we had to postpone events, like the Job Fair we planned on the 14th of March, or the two-weekly Meetup event for new voluntary instructors where they can discover the volunteering possibilities in our program.
However, soon, we realised we may not need to postpone all events. We could do the two-weekly meetups online, just like we did with our classes, and so far we have already done this twice, involving already more than 5 new instructors. But, moreover, we figured that even our Job Fair event could be done online, demonstrating that making a social impact is still possible in these times of crisis.
This resulted in an online event of 7 different video calls, where students joined different sessions with different companies, in order to – like at a normal job fair – connect to recruiters and find potential job opportunities. The event was a great success and soon after, some of our students already had job interviews at different companies. We want to thank CodeOp, our co-organiser, and all the involved companies for their participation: Adaptive, Glovo, The Hotels Network, PayFit, Webhelp and Travelperk.
Impact on Finances
Migracode is financed through different sources. We started with the financial support from the European Union, but when our program showed strong progress and a high student and volunteering participation rate, we were able to spark the interest of the private sector. Since then, we have been able to secure funding through some tech companies in and around Barcelona, and also through international partners.
While securing funding will always remain one of the biggest challenges (for any NGO), we are happy to announce that none of our partners have withdrawn their amazing support to our program due to the COVID-19 crisis. Rather the opposite: many companies continued not only their financial support, but also were able to help us with soft skill trainings and material donations. We cannot express our gratitude enough for the trust they have put into our program.
That being said, we do not know what the near future may bring. Like almost all companies, our partners will most likely also be impacted by the financial setbacks of the COVID-19 crisis. Because of this, we will continue to look for more funding sources, in order to make Migracode even more sustainable and to reach even more vulnerable groups.
Impact on the Schedule
Because we were able to continue all our class activities and events in an online environment, there has not been a strong need to postpone activities or events so far. Still, we will repeat the job fair we moved to an online environment when times are back to normal, to involve even more companies.
However, when keeping the near future in mind and the assumption that the current Spanish lockdown will be extended, there is a high possibility that our first group cannot graduate (which is planned to be in the beginning of May) with a special graduation event, potentially combined with a job fair.
Because of this, we have already chosen to extend the course period of our first group to the end of May, in order to connect their graduation to an event and a potential job placement (which is now more difficult than normally the case). Furthermore, this also allows them to put more time and effort in their final projects, which they’ve started with in the beginning of March. This will improve their skills and their final portfolio, which means that the extension of their course will only have positive effects on their final results.
Also, when it will be decided in the upcoming days/weeks that the lockdown will be further extended, preventing us from organising new Meetup events, we will start with organizing an online Meetup event with a webinar and comparable networking sessions as we have organised for the job fair online.
Lastly, we are also considering all options for the new two groups that are supposed to start in May. We already postponed the start to at least June, and in any case, at the moment, we keep two scenarios in mind:
- The moment that government protocols allow us, we will start with normal, in-person classes in June, July or August. We prefer June, but this depends on governmental decisions.
- If by July there is still no clarity about being able to host group events such as classes, we may plan to start the course completely online. However, even though we are able to make this work, our preference is to postpone the start to later in the summer and start with normal in-person classes.
Impact on Project Outputs
With amazing support of our volunteer community we have been able to continue with our commitment to free and open education for all our students. Our voluntary instructors have been extremely flexible with switching from their in-person support to online support, both during the classes as well as between the classroom activities. They are helping students through Slack and video conferences, and students have been very satisfied with the support so far:
- “I had a one-two-one with Jordi – he was super helpful and helped me also with the earlier error when trying to commit the homework.”
- “They are all great, but Ricard and Audrey deserve a special thanks”
- “I will highlight the names Tom Fenech and Justen”
- “They are all great and I had a session with Tom. He’s really amazing.”
The goal that is under most pressure due to the COVID-19 crisis is labour integration. Supporting our students with job placements has become even more challenging due to the hibernation status where a big part of the Spanish economy finds itself at the moment. Companies are hiring less people or even completely stopped hiring temporarily, and they are waiting for more stable times to extend their tech teams.
Furthermore, especially on the long-term, we keep the economic backslash that COVID-19 is already creating in mind. Many companies will endure the drop in productivity, projects and profit opportunities, and this will high-likely have an impact on their hiring rates as well. This may also affect the number of job opportunities our students will be able to find.
However, there is also a positive side. Of all sectors, the technology sector is simultaneously one of the few sectors that finds advantages in the COVID-19 situation, as a majority of individuals and other companies now rely even more on technology, and hence, the number of developers behind all those apps and websites making remote working possible. This could mean that, especially in the long-term, new sort of job opportunities may be created, also for our students.
Another positive note that is important to mention is that a few of our students from our first group – the one that is graduating in May/June, even have arranged job interviews via our online job fair. Some are currently in the application process, and we hope that we are able to get our first hires!
Not only tech education and labour integration are important pillars of Migracode Barcelona, but the social aspect of our program is just as important, in order to thoroughly promote inclusion and diversity. Furthermore, to keep our students and volunteers engaged and dedicated to our program, it is important that we create a sense of belonging to our community.
Besides that, we offer many forms of additional support to help our students with issues that are not related to their educational progress, like first-line psychological support, career coaching, LinkedIn/CV training and legal counseling.
In the current COVID-19 crisis, we have not stopped doing these things – on the contrary, we have focussed even more on supporting our students to help them get through these difficult times. So far, we have done one-two-one sessions with all our students of at least one hour each, checking-in on their Migracode progress, but also on their emotional wellbeing and their personal situation (if they felt comfortable discussing this, obviously).
Besides strong individual support, we also kept connecting our students to our volunteers who help with the other forms of support, like legal and/or career support. Our volunteers have been of great help with this and were able to also offer stress relief through their counseling sessions, by for instance helping out with housing issues or with work permit questions.
Hence, in general, we continue to focus on community building. However, naturally, because of the missing in-person contact, we also face challenges. It is more difficult to see how a student is doing on a weekly basis because the weekly in-person contact is absent, and is not the same through video conference. Once again, this is why the extra one-two-one support is extra important now, and is something we will continue to offer.
Based on the the data provided in this article, we can conclude that at this moment, we have successfully responded to the crisis. With an amazing effort by both volunteers and students, we have been able to continue our program as planned, though with many adjustments. Still, we keep all scenarios in mind, which is also why we have listed all potential risks in the near and long-term future, in order to be fully prepared for potential new challenges (these can be found in the full report version of this article).
Our main aim at this point of time is to put even more effort into individual student support, to make sure that students receive enough technical assistance to keep up with the program, even remotely. In line with this, we have also increased our existing efforts in providing additional services to students, such as first-line psychological help, legal advice and career coaching. This is highly necessary to prevent vulnerable communities from becoming even more fragile during these times of crisis. Besides having great team members who provide these services, we also have strong connections with other local NGOs that can offer more specialised support.
To conclude this article, there is one thing that this crisis demonstrates even more strongly than normal times: how Migracode Barcelona is not just a school, but that it is a community. A community of dedicated students, volunteers and partners, who are all making amazing efforts to get out of this crisis together and continue the shared journey of turning our talented students into Junior Web Developers.
We wish everyone and your families all the best during these difficult times. A huge thanks to all those who are involved in Migracode Barcelona and we hope to see you in-person again as soon as possible.
On behalf of the Migracode team,
فنسنت فان جرونديل
Program Manager of Migracode Barcelona