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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Google Student Blog: Applications are open for 2018 scholarship opportunities in the US, Canada, and EMEA!

Google is proud to offer academic scholarships and development opportunities to students from historically underrepresented groups pursuing computer science degrees. We aim to help students from diverse backgrounds become future leaders and role models in computing and technology by breaking down the barriers that prevent them from entering these fields.  Selected students will receive a financial award for the 2018-19 academic year and be invited to the annual Google Scholars’ Retreat in their region next summer. At the retreat, scholars will participate in networking and development sessions, including sessions on how to lead outreach in their communities. Scholars also join long term a community of former scholarship recipients for continued networking and development.  Read more to check the details of each program here

 

White House announces boost to computer science education

The White House announced on Monday new initiatives to bolster computer science in K–12 education. Citing the rapidly expanding demand for technology jobs, the Obama administration outlined new efforts by two federal agencies: The National Science Foundation plans to spend $20 million on computer science education in 2017, on top the the $25 million it spent in 2016, with an emphasis on training teachers. And the National Science and Technology Council will create a framework to help guide federal efforts “to support the integration of computer science and computational thinking into K–12 education,” according to Monday’s release. The two agencies’ efforts, it said, will complement the Obama administration’s wider efforts to expand science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in education. The White House announcement comes in conjunction with new commitments to computer science education by 250 organizations, including Bootstrap, STEMteachersNYC and the American Association of Physics Teachers. Other announcements include Google’s new computer science career prep program for college students and the University of North Texas’s partnership with the Perkins School for the Blind and the California School for the Blind. Computer science is playing an increasingly large role in STEM — nearly two-thirds of all STEM jobs require computing skills. Despite the large need and an overwhelming desire by parents for their children to learn computer science, only about 40 percent of schools offer classes on the subject. Read the sourece here