Case study: Code Division and Ukrainian refugee Polina

Code Division are a non-profit social enterprise dedicated to combating digital inequality by providing high-quality skills programmes to underserved communities. Since March 2020, we have delivered inclusive digital programs to over 650 learners across Scotland.

We recently delivered SQA accredited Data Courses to 120 learners across Southeast Scotland and the Tayside Region. 77.5% of these learners are Women, 28.3% are from BAME background, 15% identify as neurodiverse, 8.3% are living with a disability and 35.8% are refugees.

Learners receive unwavering support, including a complimentary 6-month data card, extended access to our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), and additional resources for six months post-course completion. Notably, alumni Polina and Yulia from our recent Data and Excel/Data and Python courses have seamlessly transitioned into roles as supporting mentors at Code Division, using their expertise, and lived experiences to guide and inspire fellow refugees.

Polina, originally from Ukraine, found herself in Dundee through the Homes for Ukraine program. A teacher by training, she worked her way up the ladder in Ukraine as an economist. Through a Code Division course funded by Digitay, the Tay Cities Region Deal Digital Skills Project, Polina took the opportunity to gain new data skills.

With no prior experience in tech, Polina initially thought she could learn some new Excel tricks on the course. However, she found the course to be a revelation. Going beyond Excel, Code Division offered a comprehensive exploration of working with data, punctuated by vital soft skills training. Discovering her love for the subject, Polina said “I really enjoyed problem-solving with data, it made me feel really calm.”

This period of intense learning reignited Polina’s self-belief and passion for learning, showing her that data roles were within her reach. She said: “On the course I realised that everyone actually works with data!” Completing the course in the autumn, Polina’s job search yielded positive results quickly. Now working in the dean’s office at St. Andrew’s university, she credits the course for boosting her confidence.

Excited about mentoring with Code Division, Polina feels inspired by the opportunity and sees it as a creative role where she can translate complex concepts across language barriers, as well as providing support and crucial motivation to others.

Polina’s journey from a finance professional to a tech enthusiast and mentor reflects the transformative power of person-centred skills training. Her story underscores the ability of these programmes to empower individuals, not just with technical skills but also with newfound confidence and the courage to explore diverse career paths.

Polina’s transition from underemployment to a university job and a mentoring opportunity showcases the lasting impact of inclusive tech education on individuals and their future aspirations. Now, working in a new role with a renewed sense of purpose, Polina recommends data skills programs to everyone she knows. She concluded:  “Learning something new is really useful – you can succeed in a way you never expected!”