Ten Grade 6, 7 and 8 students are spending their nutrition break learning how to make a video game—and at the same time learning they could have a bright future in technology.
The club at Viscount Montgomery Elementary School is one of 17 currently offered to middle school-aged students in Hamilton’s public and Catholic schools. Three years of ABACUS funding from Hamilton Community Foundation is turning the clubs from a successful but resource-strapped pilot into a stable, sustainable program run through the Industry Education Council. “Without HCF’s support we couldn’t structure the program or follow up,” says co-ordinator, Beth Gibson. “Now we have the resources to grow.”
Canada has a shortage of 182,000 information and communication technology (ICT) workers. Kevin Browne, founder of Software Hamilton and a Code Club champion, sees hundreds of local ICT jobs go to out-of-town talent because no one from Hamilton applies. “We have a pipeline problem,” he says. “If students aren’t introduced to technology in middle school they won’t take it in high school and it might as well be rocket science.”
The weekly program targets schools in Hamilton’s Neighbourhood Action Strategy but any school is welcome, particularly if it encourages girls to join (only 24 percent of ICT workers in Canada are women). Weekend clubs and summer camps are planned for the Central Library. The clubs are facilitated by post-secondary students and ICT entrepreneurs. A McMaster University study will determine the program’s impact on the post-secondary perceptions of students.
It’s only week two at the Viscount Montgomery club, but already every iPad is running a rudimentary video game that the students have programmed themselves. “It’s so exciting to see their interest growing,” says teacher Sarah Weston. “Lightbulbs are going off. They’re realizing it could be a career for them.”
“I want to see a Code Club in every school in Hamilton,” says Kevin. “Of all the things that are happening in tech in the city right now, I think this is the most important.”
Excerpt from 2016 Annual Report