Bit Academy - developing the next generation of tech talent
Amsterdam-founded Bit Academy is dedicated to tackling a shortage in tech talent by transforming tech education - first in the Netherlands, then on to the rest of the world. I amsterdam spoke with co-founder Dennis Berkhof about what makes Bit Academy a unique place to learn.
Transforming tech education
Bit Academy on a mission to transform tech education in the Netherlands with specialised courses for people to continue their learning beyond the classroom.
Co-founder Dennis Berkhof says, “We sometimes say they (traditional educators) educate people to become jobless. They're not teaching the right skills. You want to teach people how to learn, because everything is changing so fast it's very hard to keep pace.”
Berkhof has the experience to back up the insight. He and fellow co-founder, Marco van der Werf, ran the academy’s predecessor Bit Students. This programme focused on a group of high-flying tech students “jump-starting” prototypes for companies. By spearheading innovations, students benefited from a more advanced and intensive learning environment than the average tech company.
“We founded (the academy) because we really want to change the education system in the Netherlands – and then the rest of the world – because it's very necessary at the moment. The people we educate now and the skills we give people now are not the right skills needed in this changing society. People choose studies that won't bring them job security in the coming decades. I think that's a very big problem. There's a shortage of well-educated tech people and that's what we want to help with.”
Learning by doing
Bit Academy’s USP is learning by doing. Students are based at The Next Web’s building in Amsterdam West, surrounded by startups and tech companies they could potentially work at. They are coached by professionals in the field, ensuring an evolving curriculum that reflects the latest advances in technology and cutting-edge techniques. And students have the opportunity to put their skills to the test with real world projects and internships with leading companies such as Unilever, Philips, ING and IKEA.
Driving all the learning is autonomy and self-motivation, where students learn at their own pace using a gamified platform. The result is young tech talent that can enter university or the workforce – as software developers, engineers, AI programmers and more – both at the top of the game and agile enough to adapt. Amsterdam is an ideal testing ground for developments in the fields of AI, fintech and medtech, and champions the deployment of technology that truly improves citizen’s lives – a lesson that Bit Academy’s students take to heart.
Creating an impact-driven future
“We want [students] to be sure that as technologists they are the ones who are going to build the future, so they also want to be careful about the choices that they make. We put a lot of effort on the soft skills, but also on ethics. You need to be sure of the impact of the thing that you're making.”
Upon graduating, students receive a level 4 diploma and go on to a Bachelors’ course or find a job. Upskill is the academy’s latest venture and is open to alumni or tech professionals looking to brush up on programming, further emphasising the value of staying ahead of the curve.
“In a short time you can upskill yourself, or reskill, but it's focused on learning more, getting a better job, more responsibility in your job, or getting new skills that might suit you better, within tech. It doesn't stop when you're done, that's when it starts.”