Vocational high schools were established as a solution for the lack of intermediate staff for Turkey’s growing industry in the early years of the Turkish Republic. Yet over time, shifts in industry caused a decrease in the popularity of vocational schools. The emphasis on higher education and increased demand led to more public and private universities. According to the Ministry of Education National Education Statistics 2017/2018, there are 4,461 vocational schools (of which 91% are public) with 1,978,282 students (of which 85% are in public schools). According to 2017 numbers, vocational school graduates make up 51% of all secondary education graduates. These schools were traditionally chosen by low to middle-income families as a shortcut for obtaining a job. When compared with the expense of studying 4 years at university, vocational schools are attractive as an option for obtaining employment after graduation, with only 12% of graduates unemployed. Yet herein lies the discrepancy: most students who graduate from vocational high schools now prefer 4-year programs with the expectancy of employability and higher paying jobs. This is because these high schools fail to give students what the private sector seeks, which makes competition with other students much more challenging.
While vocational school graduates have the right to continue on to a 2-year university (associate degree), they can also compete to enter 4-year schools and bachelor’s degree if they pass the central exam. Yet according to 2017 data, only 6% of technical vocational school graduates managed to do so, whereas 20% managed to get into a 2-year program. Even if they manage to get into a university, they face harsh competition given the already high number of unemployed university graduates (34%). In this case, most students turn to paid courses to increase their employability.
Yet computer related departments in universities have the highest skill discrepancy (skills gap with what the IT sector needs) of 43% (SASAM, 2015) and these graduates are 10th most unemployed among all graduates. The growth in the ICT sector in Turkey shows great potential for employability, not only in advanced positions but intermediate positions as well in Turkey and especially for the tech-related fields, yet the school system is considered inadequate in fulfilling private sector expectations for three reasons: 1) Schools lack necessary hardware and laboratories; 2) Teachers are not trained enough especially in Computer Science related fields and 3) Curricula are not regularly updated with new technologies. As such, most students from the ICT departments in vocational schools graduate without even considering high tech-related jobs as an opportunity. Yet today’s high-tech subjects will soon become commonplace and mid-level employees will be needed. Students who study information and communication technologies (ICT) at vocational schools are well positioned to get good jobs (as well as to build the quality of Turkey’s workforce).
Kodluyoruz is a tech-focused nonprofit organization aiming to create career opportunities in technology and coding for talented but socio-economically disadvantaged youth by providing high-quality tech education to self-driven youth; increasing coding literacy among primary & secondary education students to promote 21st century skills; and combating gender-based prejudices in the tech sector to promote a talent and interest based career selection. Kodluyoruz was founded in 2016 by a small team with full-time jobs in the technology sector. During their professional lives, they observed disconnects between job potential in tech-driven sectors and high youth unemployment. While tackling obstacles of youth employment and offering learning opportunities for hundreds of youth in technology, coding, robotics, and other topics for youth, Kodluyoruz successfully established close working relationships with several employers such as Bosh, Microsoft and PriceWaterhouse Coopers. Their programs have grown and diversified and continue to scale. The founders of Kodluyoruz are female and have a very strong gender lens, finding creative ways of integrating gender topics with coding and robotics training. Its main programs are:
EMpower’s second grant to We are Coding is providing technical (AI, coding) and soft skill acquisition with the goal of increasing employability for 1,150 youth (15-17) from lower economic backgrounds who attend vocational schools and major in information and communication technologies (ICT) as well as 20 teachers. In addition, they are developing a new online platform which will be an investment for the future scale and reach of programs across Turkey.
Primary Location: Istanbul, Turkey
Funded Since: 2019
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