Levelling the Playing Field: Myplanet, CNIB, & HackerYou Partner to Create Accessible Learn-to-Code Opportunity
About six months ago, we were wrapping up a project we co-created with CNIB and an idea came up that we were immediately interested in making happen if we could. It fit our core values and it was in line with the kinds of work we wanted to be doing and the ways in which we want to be doing it. But we knew it wasn’t as easy as just saying “We’re in.” It was going to require careful thinking, a reorganizing of some of our other plans, and a fair bit of patience to ensure we were doing it right.
And now, after several months of planning, it’s finally coming to life.
We’re thrilled to announce we’ll be partnering with CNIB and HackerYou to offer a unique opportunity for career training & growth to an individual with a passion for software development. Through a combination of intensive course work, mentoring, and real-world work experience (all sponsored by Myplanet) we’re going to be working with those organizations to create an opportunity that we’re hoping will help level the playing field for blind or partially sighted individuals.
“We want to encourage Canadians who are blind and partially sighted to achieve successful careers in STEM.” — Jason Cottrell, CEO, Myplanet
Research shows that only 38% of working-age Canadians with vision loss are employed, compared to 73% of non-disabled Canadians. Blind or partially sighted Canadians are facing staggering unemployment levels and the result is that approximately half of them are living on less than $20,000 year. Systemic barriers to employment, especially in STEM careers, are a known problem and we’re excited to start tackling a few of them, even on this relatively small scale.
We’ll be offering what we’re dubbing a “loan-to-scholarship” for a blind or partially sighted individual who qualifies for the HackerYou intensive program. Loan-to-scholarship means we’ll provide a loan for attending the course (as well as sponsoring a prep course, if it’s required) and pending completion of the HackerYou program and the six-month paid internship at Myplanet, we’ll forgive half of the loan, the other half of which will be paid back on a schedule in tandem with the paid internship.
Our hope is the combination of intensive learn-to-code training, mentorship with a senior Myplanet team member, and the opportunity to utilize the newly learned skills from HackerYou in the real-world work environment at Myplanet will help kickstart a career in STEM for the participant.
It’s an exciting opportunity for everyone involved, but obviously to make it happen a lot of moving parts needed to come together.
Before even connecting with HackerYou and agreeing to go-ahead with CNIB, we had to be sure we could offer the direct support we know students need when starting out. Having run a Fellowship program in-house and on site in Ottawa, Vancouver, and most recently in Costa Rica, we know direct mentorship can have a significant impact on comprehension and understanding for new programmers. Knowing we already had our next cohort of Fellowship students in Costa Rica scheduled to run at the end of June, plus a full slate of client work, we were initially concerned we wouldn’t be able to provide the selected participant with the mentorship and support we felt was necessary. Without a mentor available, we couldn’t in good conscience sign on to make this opportunity happen. Fortunately, we were able to make a plan to guarantee availability of one of our Senior Developers, so we were able to move on to the next hurdle.
Our next challenge was finding the right learn to code program; we knew we’d need to find one that could support the needs of a student with different accessibility needs. Knowing how collaborative their program and operations are, we turned to HackerYou (their reputation for a quality intensive training program makes them one of our go-to recommendations when asked) and so that’s where we went first. We were thrilled when they said they were keen to be a part of this and would happily make the necessary accommodations to provide an inclusive and accessible process, from interview through to course work. They are the ideal partner to have for this initiative.
Finally, with that hurdle cleared, we only had one more to go and ultimately, it was our biggest concern: being sure that the student involved was going to be put in a position to succeed.
Coding bootcamps are notoriously challenging. They are exhausting and anyone who has ever taken one knows that the demands — mental and also physical, in the form of long hours sitting at a desk and coding — are high. Being passionate about the software development world is a necessary prerequisite for anyone looking to go into this kind of program.
That’s why partnering with CNIB in this endeavour has been so essential. Their community contacts meant we had a faster and more direct line to motivated individuals than we might have been able to otherwise. Recruiting in all its forms is a challenge, but leveraging the CNIBs incredible network meant we could feel confident that whoever we found would be motivated and ready to take on this new opportunity, and that we’d find them with more ease than we could have hoped for otherwise.
We’re a BCorporation, which means we’re committed to better business practices across a number of categories, from governance to environmental impact to social change and equality. A big part of that for us is even embedded in the work we do and our mission of making everyday experiences more enjoyable. We genuinely care about making workplaces better for everyone — whether that’s through crafting smart, user-friendly software or through improving access to and understanding about how people do work at work.
And a big piece of the puzzle, no matter what aspect of workplace experiences we’re trying to improve, is expanding the community of voices that make up the technology and design worlds. We’ve been taking steps in that direction through our Fellowship program for nearly ten years. This new opportunity with HackerYou and CNIB is part of our continuous evolution to be even better than before, and a next step we can’t wait to take.