Over the past decade, Sweden's become a major player on the tech scene.
It's the birthplace of billion-dollar companies like Spotify, Skype, and Klarna. It has a booming gaming industry, with companies EA DICE, King, and Mojang -- the developer behind Minecraft -- based in Stockholm. And for a small country, it produces a phenomenal number of startups.
As the industry grows, so does the (urgent) need for programmers. But homegrown talent doesn't crop up overnight. It takes years to develop the practical experience required to work at the top tech companies. Yet many of the highly-skilled foreign programmers living here remain out of work.
The question is, why?
Swedish for Programmers (SFX-IT) tutor Pablo Win says it all comes down to the language (or lack thereof). After 30 years working in the Swedish IT industry, he knows what tech companies here look for when they hire.He believes not speaking Swedish won't stop immigrants from initially getting work, but without it they may never get a permanent contract.
He believes not speaking Swedish won't stop immigrants from initially getting work, but without it they may never get a permanent contract.
“There are companies that would take them if they can communicate in English. But many employers consider it a temporary solution, as they need competent employees who can also communicate with Swedish customers, partners, and employees.”
That's the goal of SFX-IT — the Swedish course designed for immigrants with a background in programming and IT. It's one of the nine language courses in the greater Stockholm area intended specifically for people with a background in a certain industry.
It's based at the C3L Center for Lifelong Learning in Tyresö, just southeast of Stockholm, reachable in just 30 minutes from Stockholm's Central Station. You can choose to study between 15 and 18 hours per week in the classroom, or take evening classes online through the web platform -- a good option if you're not living in the greater Stockholm area but need to brush up on your Swedish skills to continue your career.
The intensive course helps you learn Swedish starting at your current level -- whatever it may be -- all the way through to the advanced level you'll need to thrive in the workplace. The vocabulary is tailored to people with an education in programming and IT, so you learn the language you'll actually use on a day-to-day basis with colleagues and clients.
While you study you can also take optional classes in technical IT vocabulary and get certification in Java and C#, two of the most common programming languages used in Sweden. Pablo believes the combination of language learning and new practical skills will ensure you don't fall behind the industry while you study.
“The majority of people in the IT industry who move to Sweden lack Swedish language skills,” he says. “It can take a few years to master the language, and in the meantime, you lose connection to IT development and the latest in the industry.”
But SFX-IT is much more than a language programme. You'll also get a cultural education to give you confidence in the Swedish workplace, as well as support with your CV and interview practice. Pablo even helps them to get SFX-IT students' LinkedIn profiles into shape so they can start connecting with industry contacts.
“I meet the students individually, look at their professional profile, and help them to get into the job market faster,” explains Pablo.
He also puts students in touch with his contacts in the Swedish tech industry, leading them to gain more experience and internships that can lead to permanent positions.
“I share my experience and my contacts with people who are new to Sweden. My main goal is to help them find the right job. I'm the link between SFX-IT students and the IT industry.”
The next SFX-IT course starts January 11th, 2018. Apply before December 1st to secure your place.