Transforming tech education

This summer saw the very first cohort of Bit Academy students graduate – an exciting milestone for the three-year-old academy that's on a mission to transform tech education in the Netherlands and beyond. 

“We sometimes say they (traditional educators) educate people to become jobless,” co-founder Dennis Berkhof said.

“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 insight; he and fellow co-founder Marco van der Werf ran the academy’s predecessor, Bit Students, in which a group of high-flying tech students “jump-started” prototypes for companies. As well as spearheading innovations, students benefited from a more advanced and intensive learning environment than the average tech company.

Bit Academy students

“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. 

As an ideal testing ground for developments in the fields of AI, fintech and medtech, Amsterdam champions the deployment of technology that truly improves citizen’s lives – an important lesson for Bit Academy’s students, too.

“We want them 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,” Berkhof said. “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.”

On graduating, students receive a level 4 diploma and go on to a Bachelors’ course or find a job. The academy’s latest venture, Upskill, open to alumni or tech professionals looking to brush up on programming, further emphasises 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,” Berkhof said. 

“It doesn't stop when you're done, that's when it starts.”

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