Microsoft and ABN AMRO help refugees to kickstart a tech career

Supporting refugees to build a new career in The Netherlands, whilst bridging the current IT skills gap. That is the aim of the Azure Academy, the IT training track powered by Microsoft, ABN AMRO and the Refugee Talent Hub. Read more about it in Microsoft’s press release bellow.

The recent influx of refugees has brought a lot of new talent to the Netherlands. For many of the group that hold a residence permit, it remains difficult to find the right opportunities and become part of working society. Microsoft and ABN AMRO offer a fresh start by combining training for highly sought-after IT roles with follow-up in a paid job at the bank. “Thanks to this partnership, we train more and more people for IT positions and guide candidates to a promising paid job.” This long-term sustainable success is a win-win situation for everyone involved.

“It’s about giving people a chance and filling vacancies where we don’t have enough people.”Chani Savelberg – Diversity and Inclusion Consultant – ABN AMRO

“Sustainability is also about the way we interact with people. ABN AMRO believes that everyone deserves equal opportunities,” says Chani Savelberg, Diversity and Inclusion Consultant at ABN AMRO. “We started the Reboot program in 2017. Through this program, we offer motivated permit holders a paid job or internship. This way, we help them get a fresh start and give them confidence for a stable, better future. In order to build a life here, financial independence is extremely important. With Reboot, we offer permit holders a chance at a lasting career.”

Social impact and improved products

The Reboot program is about lasting relationships: jobs that create a long-term relationship between employer and employee. And its success keeps increasing. Last year, ABN AMRO surpassed its placement target with 26 new employees from the Reboot program. Not only does this benefit the new employees, but it also works out well for the bank. “Teams with people from different cultures look at problems from varying perspectives. As a result, employees challenge each other more, which leads to the delivery of improved services. And last but not least, you’re making an impact on a social level: you do the right thing by giving people a chance.”

Providing opportunities for people that can’t easily access the labor market Work brings fulfillment and gives meaning to life. Furthermore, there are currently more vacancies than job seekers. Nevertheless, permit holders, people with disabilities or people who lack the required skills can’t easily access the labor market. With the right opportunities, they get a chance to participate. This doesn’t only benefit themselves, but companies as well. From government organizations to hospitals and banks: we’re all working digitally and mostly in the cloud. This trend has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in even more demand for IT professionals to realize and facilitate this way of working.

Due to the high demand for IT staff, many organizations face a considerable challenge to fill their vacancies. To solve this mismatch in the labor market, we need to train as many people as possible for IT roles. With IT training programs, such as the Azure Academy and our Dutch reskilling platform, Microsoft aims to contribute to solving the shortage of IT-skilled candidates.

Collaboration between Microsoft and ABN AMRO

ABN AMRO wanted a partnership between the Reboot program and Microsoft’s training program. They aim to train and hire diverse talent for their open IT vacancies and have a wish list of specific technical skills. “Skills in Azure are relatively new, which means that people who have worked in IT for a long time have little experience with them,” says Savelberg. The bank was actively looking for talent skilled in Azure. At the same time, Microsoft’s account executive spoke to the bank about contributing to a more sustainable and diverse business. Both organizations partnered in the Azure Academy, the training program from Microsoft, Refugee Talent Hub, and ITPH Academy.

Long-term success with technical knowledge and soft skills

The Azure Academy helps people with employment barriers gain the right Azure skills and soft skills they need to work in an IT department, in just four months. “I think it’s important to focus on soft skills, in addition to hard skills. This ensures a lasting relationship. A candidate doesn’t only need to know how to handle everyday tasks, but also how to function in the bigger picture of a team and company,” says Savelberg.

Both the Azure Academy’s skills and ideals are in line with ABN AMRO’s needs. We’re having an ongoing dialogue, which helps to keep improving our matches. “Thanks to this partnership, we’re helping more and more people find work.” Savelberg also praises the flexibility of the Azure Academy. “The graduates possess strong Azure skills but sometimes lacked other necessary skills. After we discussed this issue, these other skills were also included in the program.”

To improve the connection between employer and candidate, we’re developing a specific ABN AMRO class, which focuses on the typical ABN AMRO way of working. In this class, students not only receive ITIL and scrum training, but also become acquainted with the corporate culture. They learn about the bank’s activities, goals, and strategy. Furthermore, there’s also plenty of room for social contact with their future employer. For example, candidates get the chance to get acquainted with the manager and the team.

Ensuring an optimal, long-lasting relationship

Both Microsoft and ABN AMRO strive for a good, long-term match. This enables candidates to quickly find their place in the organization and create a lasting relationship. “It’s a long and intensive process for both parties, which is why you need to optimize the chances of success.” For this reason, Savelberg first speaks to the managers. “We ask them to free up their time and access their networks to guide candidates in their new roles. This allows candidates to build their own networks and creates a comfortable working environment with future prospects. This way, the manager not only provides a valuable job today, but also offers the candidate an opportunity to take the next step after a few years.”

Coaches remove cultural barriers

Having a good connection between a new colleague and the rest of the team is of great importance to everyone involved. It benefits the manager, the team, and the candidates themselves. Therefore, it’s essential to invest in personal skills and remove any major bottlenecks. With the help of a coach and review meetings between the manager and candidate, we ensure the new employee feels comfortable and welcome.

In addition, the team and the manager also receive guidance from a coach. Everyone is involved in the process through regular review meetings. Furthermore, teams may also take initiative to improve their connections. “For example, some teams help permit holders improve their Dutch. The teams themselves also learn a lot from this collaboration. It’s extremely valuable to work with different people and discover new perspectives. It helps you to look at problems differently,” Savelberg says happily.

ABN AMRO employees not only learn to look at things in a different way. A colleague of Savelberg also mentions that they learn from the perseverance of most Rebooters. “They invest just a little more than others and are very happy with the bank and the work they’re doing. I’ve also learned more about their cultures and how I can support them. Not just with work, but also in getting used to our way of working and living.” This way, employees gain even more new insights.

Fulfill IT vacancies in a sustainable and diverse way

It’s not just the financial sector that is changing rapidly. All industries are digitizing and adapting their business operations. This means they’re focusing more on the power and importance of a sustainable and diverse personnel policy. Forward-thinking organizations like Microsoft and ABN AMRO believe in a better, inclusive future where social impact can go hand in hand with the success and profit of your organization. Therefore, we remain committed to the Reboot program and other valuable training programs for the IT sector.