MolenGeek

With Salesforce, we can help young people learn new skills and discover new technologies even if they don’t have formal qualifications.”

Ibrahim Ouassari, Founder and Social Entrepreneur, MolenGeek
 

MolenGeek gives young learners the code for success with Salesforce

Ibrahim Ouassari left school without qualifications at just 13 years old. Through his love of downloading music, he started exploring web technologies and is now one of Belgium’s most inspirational entrepreneurs. And he wants to help other young people follow in his footsteps. “Encouraging an entrepreneurial spirit can help young people who’ve grown up with disadvantages pursue their dreams,” said Ouassari. “But even the most talented and motivated person will often need support to succeed – and that’s where MolenGeek comes in.”

Ouassari grew up in the Molenbeek-Saint-Jean district in Brussels, which has 40% youth unemployment and was once dubbed, ‘the most notorious postcode in western Europe’. “Like many young people in Molenbeek, my name, lack of education, and postcode were all against me but that made me even more determined to be a success,” explained Ouassari.

Breaking down the barriers to learning

After launching four startups, Ouassari soon became a role model in Molenbeek and decided to put his business skills to good use by giving back to his community. In 2015, he set up MolenGeek, a social project and digital centre that offers coworking space, coding courses, and startup incubator services.  

“We engage with young people of all ethnic backgrounds and religions, harnessing their potential regardless of educational background,” said Ouassari. Since it was founded, the nonprofit has deeply impacted the lives of more than 300 youngsters from Molenbeek and beyond, while welcoming over 1,000 people in the broader coworking and event community. 

MolenGeek has been such a success that it has attracted the backing of multinational tech companies, such as Salesforce, Samsung, and Google. “We co-create free training courses to deliver technical skills that will benefit both businesses and young people,” said Ouassari.

Trailhead simplifies the creation of new training courses

The Salesforce team in Belgium became involved early on, providing training support and advice. At the end of 2018, things moved up a gear, with MolenGeek offering a bespoke Salesforce training course based on Trailhead content. “The Salesforce team provided coaches to support students as they worked on different trails,” explained Ouassari. “Setting up some of our other training courses entailed a lot of effort, but with Trailhead, creating course content was easy - and that makes learning easy too.”

As Augustin Doat discovered.  The 25-year-old from Jette, Brussels had tried various qualifications – though not all were a good fit for him – before he signed up to the Salesforce course with MolenGeek. “I loved the experience and the fact that the tutors were really there for us and willing to share their passion for Salesforce,” he said. 

Doat now wants to further certify himself with Salesforce, and even coach others on Trailhead. “I’m really looking forward to helping other people to develop new skills and follow new career paths,” he added. 

New employment opportunities for young people

Once the first 20 students had completed the pilot two-week Salesforce course, the training event became a regular feature on the calendar. “Our first young trainees were amazing,” said Ouassari. “They quickly picked up the skills and everyone who got the certification has found a job - one Salesforce partner in Belgium wanted to employ 11 of the 20 trainees!”

Israa Ben Abbes was among the first course participants and has landed a place on Salesforce’s Graduate Trainee Programme. “MolenGeek has hit on something amazing,” she said. “It’s not just for people that struggle to get a traditional education; it’s for anyone  who wants to learn and develop their career.”

MolenGeek transforms lives and communities

As a Salesforce graduate trainee, Ben Abbes will be based in Dublin, following her dream to work abroad. Social initiatives like MolenGeek are not just changing individual lives but entire communities. “Molenbeek is now a diverse and interesting neighbourhood where you can share ideas, learn new skills, and make new connections,” said Ben Abbes. “MolenGeek has been part of that transformation.”

And that transformation is about to go global. Ouassari and his team plan to set up MolenGeek spin-offs in Amsterdam, Antwerp, two further neighbourhoods of Brussels, and Padova, Italy. As the organisation grows, the team will use Salesforce to help manage internal operations and track interactions with volunteers, students, and partners. 

“We want to become a centre of excellence for Salesforce skills so we can open up new opportunities for more young people,” said Ouassari. “With Salesforce, we can help young people learn new skills and discover new technologies even if they don’t have formal qualifications.” 

 

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