Tech lobby thrilled about computer coding in schools

People who work in Saskatchewan’s technology sector are applauding the provincial government’s pledge to introduce new computer coding courses in elementary and high schools, hoping to solve an industry-wide labour crunch. The province’s tech sector is still comparatively small, but rapid growth has resulted in a shortage of experienced software developers, and the problem is expected to get worse, according to a spokesman for a new industry lobby group. “We can identify several hundred open jobs right now,” said Aaron Genest, who works for the computer chip developer Solido Design Automation Inc. and speaks for SaskTech, which represents more than 40 companies with about 5,000 employees. “It’s an early indicator of the challenges that we’re going to face in 10, 15, 25 years … In the long term, we need to prepare our children to see (computer science) programs as part of their future.” The Saskatchewan Party

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SaskTech spokesman Aaron Genest in the Saskatoon offices of Solido Design Automation Inc.

government committed to developing the curriculum in its throne speech, which was read in the legislature on Wednesday. It said the courses will prepare children for careers in science, engineering and technology.  The promise emerged from consultations with SaskTech and the broader industry.  Education Minister Bronwyn Eyre said this week that while the mechanics have yet to be worked out, she would like to see the courses being taught “as soon as possible.” She declined to provide a specific timeline but said enthusiasm for the proposal is widespread. The main challenge is a shortage of qualified teachers, the Stonebridge–Dakota MLA said. Saskatchewan only has about 70 teachers qualified to instruct high school students in computer science, and the province’s two education colleges must work to increase that number, she said. Saskatchewan’s 28 school boards have spent the last six months grappling with a 1.2 per cent, or $22 million, operational funding reduction handed down in the government’s unpopular 2017-18 budget, which aims to halve a $1.2 billion deficit this year. Eyre said the province’s financial situation has “no relevance” to the development of coding courses. “Now that the focus is there, and so the resources will, I’ve been assured, fall into place,” she said.  Michelle Naidu, associate director of development for the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation, noted it takes years to develop new courses, and professional development resources are already scarce; however, she said the proposed courses could benefit students. “Computational thinking is going to start showing up in all kinds of jobs as we move away from people doing work,” said Naidu, who is also the president of the Saskatchewan Math Teachers Society. “It’s really hard to predict the future, but everyone seems to be very happy to understand that technology is going to play a larger role in everyone’s future, and so that understanding of the basics of how that works is to everyone’s advantage.” Genest said SaskTech is thrilled the government was open to considering the industry’s proposals, and that while introducing the courses will take time it signals a willingness to boost an emerging sector in the provincial economy.  “It means that they’re committing to a homegrown solution to it (so) that Saskatchewan citizens are going to be able to step in and fill the gap in a technology-driven future.” Measuring the size of the province’s tech sector is difficult, as its work is diverse and often overlaps with other industries. However, the provincial government estimates its economic impact is around $540 million — just under one per cent of the provincial GDP. “Absolutely, it has economic potential,” Eyre said of the proposal. “And absolutely that’s why we’re doing it. We need to take our place as a province that offers this to our students.”

 

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A tech career not just for gamers and AI enthusiasts, industry leaders tell women – Business

girl-math-science-chalkboardAlthough Katie Meyer, 19, has considered a career in technology, she isn’t sure it’s in the cards for her. Three years ago, when she was 16, her mother enrolled her in a coding camp for girls. “They made it really friendly for people that age, so it was really easy to learn,” Meyer says. “We just sat down and started learning HTML and CSS.” She decided to pursue coding, so she took a course at her high school. It didn’t go as well. “It was hell on earth! Like, it was awful.” She felt out of her element, and couldn’t quite catch up to the rest of her classmates. She says it didn’t help that she was one of only two girls in that class. “All the guys knew exactly what they were doing.” Meyer, a history buff, ended up dropping that course and hasn’t pursued coding since. Stories like hers are playing out across the country. According to consulting firm McKinsey & Company, men vastly outnumber women in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Only 28 per cent of STEM graduates are women, and only 23 per cent of people working in high-paying STEM industries are women. Industry leaders are trying to improve those statistics and say the best way to get more women into tech is to change the conversation around what tech is — and what it’s not. Andrea Stairs, managing director of eBay Canada, spends a lot of time thinking about how to increase the ranks of women in her field. “I don’t think tech is a particularly friendly environment for women and I think we see that over and over again. It’s depressing,” Stairs says. Cast wider nets: Ebay has made a commitment to tracking diversity within the company, which employs 12,600 people globally. The last snapshot is from 2016 and it shows that women make up 22 per cent of its tech workforce.  Read the rest of the story here

$200 million a year for Computer Science

Today, the White House announced a $200 million per year commitment to computer science education in America’s schools. Unlike similar proposals in previous years, today’s action delivers funding to schools, immediately. Besides expanding access to computer science in schools that previously didn’t teach it, the funds promise to increase participation by women and underrepresented minorities. This funding will jumpstart efforts to ensure every student in every school has the opportunity to learn computer science as part of a well-rounded education. For advocates of increased access and diversity in CS, this is the culmination of years of momentum that began in classrooms, spread to entire school districts, and won the support of business leaders and elected officials globally. At a time when computing careers are the best-paying, fastest-growing, and largest sector of new wages, impacting every industry in every state, it is no longer acceptable for our schools to limit access to this foundational subject. Our children deserve a level playing field — the opportunity to learn computer science shouldn’t be limited by the color of a student’s skin or the neighborhood she lives in. The UK, Japan, Ireland, and a dozen other countries have announced plans to add computer science to their school curriculum. It is unacceptable for the U.S. to lag behind. The country that invented the personal computer, the Internet, and the smartphone should also lead in computer science. And today, America leads in computer science, thanks to countless supporters of this cause, starting with you: parents, students, and teachers, as well as partner organizations and local governments. Whether you signed a petition on Code.org or used our courses in your classroom, you’ve helped build a grassroots movement that is changing education, globally. The division in our country hurts us all. Amidst the politics, America’s students represent our hope. We all want opportunity for our children, and there’s no better way to offer them opportunity than to prepare them for the careers of the future. This movement has supporters across the political spectrum, whether in urban, suburban, or rural communities. 90% of parents support computer science in schools. Americans may be divided by our politics, but we’re united by our dedication to our children. We all believe in opportunity and the American Dream. Code.org has never endorsed any candidate, politician, or political party. We’ve worked closely with presidents and governors from both parties, and with international prime ministers, to advocate for opportunity. Like many others, we’re appalled by the divisiveness in today’s politics, at a time when we need collaborative solutions to the world’s problems. Given our education focus, we’re dismayed by proposed cuts to education budgets. And given our mission and focus on diversity, we unequivocally denounce the tone of racism that has entered the political sphere. Today we have a chance to set aside politics and come together, to support opportunity for all our youth, and to build our nation’s future. For those of us who have spent years working to spread computer science, today’s announcement marks a new beginning — it’s a new opportunity for every school to expand its computer science offerings. This work is only just beginning, and the job won’t be done until every state and school district in America steps up to teach high-quality computer science. To the 600,000 Code.org teachers who have helped make computer science the fastest-spreading subject in modern education, I want to thank you for your passion. And I encourage every educator to consider joining the computer science movement. Your students are our future. Whether you teach your students to add and subtract, to read and write, or to code, yours is the most important job in the world. Today marks a special moment for every parent, student, teacher, or partner organization who believes in our mission, that every student in every school deserves the opportunity to learn computer science. To all of you who have supported Code.org, today’s announcement is about something bigger than any politician or political agenda: it’s about our children and their future, and it’s about you, and the strength of our global movement for students. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Hadi Partovi, Code.org (read the original here)