Google has announced a $1.5 million grant on Wednesday to help introduce 100,000 Canadian kids to coding and working with cutting-edge technologies
The program, called Codemakers, is part of Actua, an educational charity with a three-year plan to run summer camps and school workshops across the country.
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“We know kids are incredible consumers of technology at a very young age,” says Jennifer Flanagan, Actua’s chief executive. “What we want to do is bring them from consumers of that technology to producers of that technology.”
Actua is mandated to target under-served populations, including girls, aboriginal youth, children of immigrants and kids from homes facing socioeconomic challenges, says Flanagan.
Google's executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, says educators in Canada should also focus on a field that has tens of thousands of job openings in this country alone.
“Knowledge workers are the ones getting the raises, getting the jobs. There are shortages worldwide in all of these fields, so the education system needs to change to produce them,” says Schmidt.
A similar campaign to encourage kids to code is already in place in the United States; it includes video messages from U.S. President Barack Obama and professional athletes inciting kids to develop their tech skills.
In England and some parts of the U.S., learning to code is now incorporated into the school curriculum as early as kindergarten.
In contrast, Canada is lagging behind -- coding is only offered in some high schools as an elective.
However, Canadian teachers such as Cameron Steltman from Oakville's River Oaks Public School are taking steps to give their students exposure to coding earlier on. He integrated coding into his grade six curriculum.
“They're soaking this up. Their level of excitement for it is now and yesterday and last year, so let's give them what they need,” says Steltman.