YOUSSOUFIA—In the center of this small city in western Morocco, among peach-orange buildings, the YouCode coding school stands out, not just because of its four-story bright white modern exterior, but also for the ideas it fosters inside.
Tuition-free and open to anyone 18 to 35 years old regardless of prior education, YouCode brings together students from across the country and from a variety of backgrounds. It offers them what it sees as a much-needed, updated style of education to prepare them for jobs in an economy that increasingly demands information-technology skills.
YouCode was created by a partnership between the OCP Group, Morocco’s national phosphates exporter, whose local office is next door, and the French-based organization Simplon, known for establishing coding schools around the world and a “social inclusion” philosophy that seeks to make jobs in the digital sector available to those underrepresented in the field.
Similar efforts are happening elsewhere in the Arab world, and around the globe. In Jordan, for example, ReBootKamp (RBK), a Silicon Valley-based nonprofit, has been providing coding bootcamps to both refugees and local young people to help them find jobs in the tech sector. In Iraq, the organization Re:Coded offers coding bootcamps and a tech entrepreneurship academy in an effort to prepare young people for a more digital economy.
YouCode, Simplon’s first training center in Morocco, represents a growing recognition of the need for change to deal with the country’s high rates of school dropout and youth unemployment.
Youth unemployment in Morocco is more than 22 percent, which is more than double the overall unemployment rate. Additionally, many young people are not trained for the jobs that are available. A McKinsey Global Institute study on education and employment from 2013 found that 12 percent of Moroccan employers say that a lack of skills is the main reason for not filling entry-level vacancies, and only 53 percent of employers agreed that graduates and new hires are adequately prepared for their jobs.