It might not be printed on every calendar, but the week of December 7th is officially Computer Science Education Week. It's a week inspired by computing pioneer Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, and is designed to spark an interest in computer science in students from kindergarten to grade 12.
Around the world, kids will take part in computer science programs and projects during this week, including at Toronto's newest Coderdojo Chapter, which launches on December 8th with the Kiwanis Boys and Girls Club, Regent Park. Opening with the support of volunteers from Salesforce Canada, Coderdojo is a free and fun learning environment which breaks down barriers, challenges social and economic stereotypes and empowers youth to shape their world through code.
If you're not sure why getting kids involved in coding and other STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) is so important, here are three things to consider:
- In an uncertain economy with a fairly steady youth unemployment rate, it makes good sense to steer students towards high-demand careers. According to the Digital Adoption Compass, there will be 182,000 unfilled jobs in Information and Communications Technology fields by 2019 in Canada. In the U.S., there will be a projected 1,000,000 computing jobs that will be unfilled by 2020. Getting kids interested in coding early might just be the ticket to career success down the road.
- There's a great opportunity for girls to make their mark in STEM subjects. According to Statistics Canada, women accounted for only 39 per cent of university graduates aged 25 to 34 with a STEM degree in 2011, compared with 66 per cent of university graduates in 2011. Among those female STEM graduates, only 30 per cent graduated from mathematics and computer science programs, indicating a large gender gap.
- A career in a STEM subject doesn't mean a role in a lab coat, yet many Canadians hold archaic views about STEM in the workplace. In fact, while 79 per cent of teens say discovering new facts and information happens in science, only 58 per cent say the same thing about technology and 44 per cent about engineering, according to a study conducted by Let's Talk Science and Amgen. Additionally, research finds that while 78 per cent of Canadian youth believe that STEM offers many career options, only 22 per cent express interest in pursuing science at the post-secondary level and only 12 per cent are interested in working in science-related jobs. Getting kids interested in STEM subjects early will help open their eyes to the types of jobs and opportunities out there.
If you're interested in getting your kids focused on STEM subjects, consider using Computer Science Education week as a kick-off. An easy way to start is by diving into Code.org's Hour of Code, which provides simple games and modules designed to keep kids' interest and teach basic coding in only 60 minutes. From modules featuring Frozen's Elsa and Anna to lessons on how to build an iPhone game, there is something for every age and every skill level.
Now more than ever, it's the right time to get Canadian kids interested and involved in STEM subjects.