Frequently Asked Questions

What is Powercoders?

Powercoders is a coding academy for refugees & migrants. It consists of a coding bootcamp of 13 weeks and an internship that lasts 6 to 12 months. The ultimate goal of Powercoders is the permanent placement of trained refugees in IT-companies and IT-departments. While the project started in Switzerland, we now hope to grow and bring our impact to other cities across the world.


  • How was Powercoders started?

    It all started with a trip to the United States. The American government invited an entrepreneur of each European country.

    Founder Christian Hirsig met two entrepreneurs there, one with a cooking school for refugees, one with a coding academy for women. At this time, the refugee crisis in Europe was all over the news. Driven by the energy to help, the idea of Powercoders was born.

  • Who can participate?

    Talented refugees and migrants, independent from their place of living, as long as they are allowed to travel.

  • What does it cost?

    While the program is free for our participants, there are two main parties who support Powercoders. Firstly, companies donate money what is about 50% of our revenue. Secondly, Swiss cantons support Powercoders for every student who participates with CHF 7’000–9’000 what accounts for about 50% of the budget.

  • How is Powercoders financed?

    Powercoders is a non profit organisation that depends on volunteers. To cover our costs, we are supported by the Swiss government, foundations, companies and individuals. However, Powercoders appreciates every donation.

  • Why is coaching included?

    Our participants need more than technical knowledge in order to achieve a sustainable integration into employment. Entering a new workplace and culture, with many different expectations, can be intimidating and isolating. This is why our program includes a coach. Each participant is matched with a coach that is best suited for them, and they are then supported throughout their internship.

  • Who can become a coach?

    Everyone who is a local in the specific city, motivated to learn about other cultures and willing to spend time with their mentee once every week. There are no IT skills needed, just an open and supportive attitude!

  • How long is the coaching period?

    Coaching starts towards the end of the courses and lasts until the end of the internship.

  • Is a coach paid?

    The coaching is voluntary work. Powercoders covers part of the expenses.

  • Who can become a trainer?

    IT professionals who want to support participants in solving IT challenges and help with the teaching. There is no teaching experience needed.

  • What IT skills are needed for a trainer?

    We are always looking for different skill sets, so everyone willing to support as a trainer is welcome to apply.

  • What kind of programming skills are being taught during the first 3 months in the coding bootcamp?

    Participants at Powercoders learn HTML, CSS, and JavaScript in the first seven weeks. They also learn about GIT, UX and Agile Project Management. The second part of the course - after Career Day and internship placements - focuses more on server-side technologies,programming languages and frameworks that are being used by our internship companies.

  • Is a trainer paid?

    The training is voluntary work. Powercoders covers part of the expenses.

  • What is the career day?

    At the career day we are simulating a real job seeking situation. Every company presents the internship they want to offer, and afterwards, every company has a booth that the participants are invited to stop by. The goal of a participating company is to invite 3 to 5 participants for an second, more formal interview the following week.

  • Is a donation tax-deductible?

    Yes, donations are tax-deductible, as Powercoders is a registered non-profit in Switzerland.

  • How do I get a tax receipt for a donation?

    You will receive a tax receipt after the end of each tax year.


  • What requirements are needed to apply?
    • Refugees with B and F status and in rare cases N or migrants.
    • Basic knowledge in IT
    • English fluency
    • Commitment
    • Full-time availability
    • Motivation
  • How to apply as a participant?

    Check out our current programs for application

  • How are the participants selected?

    If the application looks promising, we invite the applicant to take an IT-test and participate in a personal interview. We were looking for participants with high learning abilities, motivation, passion, talent and team working personalities. Only the most promising applicants will be selected.

  • Who pays for transport?

    Powercoders pays for this if there is no budget provided by the responsible social welfare authorities.

  • What other things does Powercoders support the participants with?

    Powercoders also offers support for laptops, transportation and food where needed.

  • Does every participant secure an internship after school?

    If the participant receives a diploma, normally we can provide an internship. However, this is also dependent on the participant’s willingness.

  • How do the participants find the right company for the internship?

    We work to ensure that this is achieved at the career day, where we simulate a real job seeking event. Every company presents the internship they are offering, after which each company has a booth that participants are expected to stop by at and ask questions about the company and internship. The goal of a participating company is to invite 3 to 5 participants for an second interview in the following week.

  • Do the participants get a salary during their internship?

    Yes, they earn between CHF 400 - 600 per month, but it gets partly deducted by their social care.


  • I have an IT company, how can I help Powercoders?

    The best way is to offer an internship. If this is not possible for you, you can encourage your employees to join us as coaches or trainers or make a donation. Please get in touch with us.

  • Why offer an internship for Powercoders?

    An internship for Powercoders is a way to offer talented people from a refugee background the opportunity to access a doorway into the IT labour market of Switzerland. It is the unique chance for companies to get access to raw talent, get in touch with a person from a refugee background, and have a strong impact on his or her unusual life story. Almost every company who offered an internship has told us that it was a very enriching experience for all their employees.

  • How long should an internship last?

    The average duration of an internship is 6 - 12 months. However you can also offer 3 months and decide later if you’d like to prolong it.

  • What is the Career Day?

    At the Career Day, we simulate a real job-finding situation. Each company has five minutes to present the internship they wish to offer. Afterwards, each company has a booth and the participants can stop by to ask questions and introduce themselves. The goal is to invite three to five participants for an interview in the following week.

  • Are the refugees allowed to work in Switzerland?

    Yes. Refugees with B or F permits are considered almost like Swiss welfare recipients. The state wants them to be integrated, have a job and become independent. The same goes for temporarily-admitted foreigners with F status.

    Asylum seekers with permit N are theoretically allowed to work, but have more difficulties getting a work permit because of the priority for people living in Switzerland.

  • How to get the job permit for interns?

    The Powercoders team files the applications for the job permits. The companies only have to sign the application form that we prepare for them, create the employment contract and pay the low fee (if there is one).

  • How long is the job permit valid for?

    The work permit is limited to the duration of the internship. However, if the same company wants to offer another internship or employment subsequently, the work permit can easily be adapted accordingly. A work permit is always only valid for the employment at the company it was applied for.

  • What is the recommended salary?

    After the internship we recommend a salary between CHF 60’000 and CHF 90’000 per year.

  • What happens to the work permit if the internship is followed up by a apprenticeship?

    That depends on the Canton. But in most Cantons the apprenticeship needs to be recognized by the authorities and then the work permit can be issued.

  • Does the company have to offer a job or an apprenticeship after the internship?

    No. There is no obligation to employ the intern after the internship in any way. However, if you want to continue to engage with your intern but you can’t offer a job or an apprenticeship, there are several alternative options:

    • prolong the internship up to one year
    • offer a part-time internship or job and let the intern study German part-time
    • offer a part-time internship or job while your intern is part-time studying at FH or ETH
    • share the resource with another company in the Powercoders network

  • Does the company have to apply for a new job permit if the internship is followed up by an apprenticeship?

    No, the existing job permit can easily be adapted to a permit for an apprenticeship.

  • Are the participants allowed to work outside of a Canton?

    Yes, they are. But important is that their main work and their workplace is with the company that filed the working permit and within that Canton where the permit was issued.

  • Who are the participants?

    The participants are highly skilled refugees or migrants from various countries. Most of them already have a background in IT or engineering. But, the most important strength they bring to the table are their quick learning skills.

  • How did Powercoders select the participants?

    We invite applicants to apply online through a form, and if the application looks promising, we invite them to a Recruitment Day, where they are asked to take an IT-test and a personal interview. We look for participants with high learning skills, motivation, passion, talent and good team working personalities. Only the most promising ones are selected.

  • Where and how do the participants live?

    Most of them are living in flats offered by their social service. A few of them (mainly the ones who have not been granted asylum) are living in refugee homes.

  • How much money does a refugee get from social welfare per month?

    The social welfare law of each canton regulates the amount of money social welfare recipients get. They follow the SKOS (Schweizerische Konferenz für Sozialhilfe) regulations. A recognised refugee with permit B or F living alone receives around 1000 CHF per month (accommodation and health insurance expenses not included). Temporarily admitted persons with permit F and Asylum seekers with permit N often receive much less.

  • Do your participants speak the local languages?

    Yes, all participants speak the local language in their residence canton. Some are very advanced and some are between B1 and B2 and still progressing.