A technology institute in Bogotá has won a project to educate 150 women in programming and software development. The Bogota Institute of Technology (BIT) founded and directed by entrepreneur César Forero competed against three other national institutions to win the prestigious initiative, led by the World Bank in partnership with a consortium of technology organizations and the Bogotá Chamber of Commerce.

After recognizing a shortage of programmers in the labor market, Forero founded the Institute in 2015 having developed successful coding bootcamps for adults. The central focus of BIT’s mission is to provide intensive three-to-six month courses, as well as practical training to adults from all economic backgrounds, with the specific ambit of closing the technology gap in Colombia.

When the opportunity arose in 2018 to broaden that offering to women, a vastly under-represented group in the IT sector, Forero told The City Paper he could think of no better way to fill that gap than with a varied group of women (from professionals to single-mothers) working with one thing in common, “a huge commitment of impressive dedication.”

Key to the Institute’s proposal were the barriers they anticipated women would face when embarking with their training. The offering of flexible study schedules and access to computers are important factors that had to be considered in order to create a feasible study environment. Critical to their success, however, is the Institute’s offering of child-care and financial aid.

Through their sister company Innovat – which specialises in the education of robotics for children – BIT is able to provide a unique offering of child-care for women while they undertake classes, combining a dual-educative approach.

This strategy also serves to build interest for future generations to study coding. After sealing another partnership with Sectortic, BIT will also provide free co-working spaces to women, addressing potential work-travel challenges that have proven restrictive for many single parents. Financially, the female students are also all supported by a scholarship which covers 80% of the cost of the bootcamp with flexible payment schemes for the remaining 20%.

Seeing the opportunity as one that breaks social barriers, BIT’s initiatives have exceeded expectations with nearly 5,000 applicants, and which was narrowed to 400, before selecting the finalists. By December 2019, 150 new female programmers in Bogotá will enter the IT job market with technical knowledge and soft-skills training. For Forero, diversification at the student level, alongside BIT’s contribution to social mobility, validates technical education as “the language of the 21st Century.”

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