With the inauguration of the BeCentral-hub, our country’s capital just got a new digital heart. The difference with other ‘digital’ initiatives, is that BeCentral focusses on people with limited computer skills. The goal is to make advances in technology accessible for everyone, from young children to digital illiterates that deserve a second chance.
Only four in ten workers have the necessary computer skills, and by 2020 Belgium will be confronted with 30.000 job vacancies as a result of the digital transformation. At the same time, thousands of people find themselves without a job, and are struggling to make ends meet.
With this in mind, 28 experts with a background in start-ups, academia, venture capital and government (from Peter Hinssen to Frank Maene, Fabian Thylmann and Olivier Vanden Eynde) came up with the idea of a new ‘digital hub’ in the heart of Brussels. The project aims specifically at the development of people with limited computer skills, and at people for whom the numerous other initiatives are too high brow.
“BeCentral is a place where people of all ages, with or without qualifications, can develop themselves, and where they can learn the skills they need for the jobs of tomorrow,” ceo of BeCentral Baudouin de Troostembergh explains.
The new hub is conveniently located above the central railroad station in Brussels. In a couple of months, the currently unoccupied space (at least 2.000 square metres) in the building will be filled with digital labs, classrooms, meeting places and workspaces. The project will be fully operational in the fall of 2017.
"We don’t need to fear the digital evolution”, stresses Minister for Digital Agenda Alexander De Croo (Open VLD), “we need to embrace it, and shape it. We need to prepare our citizens for what’s coming, and make them stronger. That’s why an initiative such as BeCentral, that focusses on the development of our Belgian talent, is of the utmost importance.”
"BeCentral will be open to everyone”, says De Croo. “The initiative offers space for start-ups, but I can imagine that school groups will come here for ‘digital baths’, and that others will participate in sessions that prepare them for a career switch. In addition, the location is not only symbolic, but also very practical.”
BeCentral signed a concession with the Belgian railways for ten years. There’s still a lot of work to be done to prepare the building, but by the end of march, the free codeschool BeCode will start its activities there.
“The demand for digital skills is enormous, as is the youth unemployment in the Brussels region”, explains BeCode initiator Karen Boers. “With BeCode we offer a solution for both those problems."
BeCode is a free coding school that wants to offer a second chance to people that are currently unemployed and left behind. More specific, the initiative will offer six months long training programs to get those people ready for the professional job market.
In a first phase, BeCode will start it’s sessions in BeCentral and in Anderlecht, but eventually the goal is to spread across the country, and to offer programs in other cities as well. The coding school joined forces with Simplon, a French initiative that made quite the difference in the Paris area.