By Sarah Parkes
The world around us is radically changing. Twenty years ago, who would have thought that today there would be more smartphones than toilets in the world? Or 10 years ago that driverless cars would now be tested? Or even just a couple of years ago that 3D printing could be used in healthcare?
Technological advances have changed the world. Every website, smartphone app, computer program, calculator and even microwave relies on code to operate – pretty much everything you use on a daily basis will rely on code in some capacity.
It’s no surprise, therefore, that the demand for digital skills is huge, with 90% of new jobs in 2017 requiring these to some degree (House of Commons, 2016). Yet the majority of young people are not equipped with the necessary digital skills required for the changing workplace. Despite being born as “digital natives”, many young people have remained digital consumers rather than becoming digital creators, and are now faced with the challenge of learning how to create digital content and not just consume it in order to succeed.
At UK Youth, we recognise the increasingly digital landscape in which young people are growing up. As code progressively powers our everyday life, advanced digital skills are becoming more important for empowering young people to play a more active role in society.
In order to ensure that young people are equipped with the skills needed for a bright future, we have partnered with Microsoft to deliver Generation Code, a national programme to ignite an interest in coding, provide opportunities to enhance digital knowledge and help young people feel better prepared for future employment.
Generation Code helps equip young people with the skills that industries need today as well as ensuring that they have the knowledge, confidence and ability to react, adapt and continue to prosper in response to rapid technological changes throughout their careers.
Alongside developments in formal computer science education, we want to ensure that the youth sector is not left behind in providing vital opportunities to young people and allow them to join this new generation of coders. Working with our national network of youth organisations, Generation Code provides first-steps coding training and resources – helping to upskill youth workers and providing opportunities for young people to engage in computer science, particularly those less likely to engage traditionally. During the programme, 16,000 young people will discover how computers work, how to code and even how to make their own app.
As part of Generation Code, we have developed a computer science curriculum that includes a series of fun and exciting 30-minute bite-sized sessions, specifically designed for hard-to-reach and hard-to-engage young people. Through this curriculum, young people are becoming more aware of the power that coding holds when it comes to making a positive difference in society.
The Generation Code Challenge allows young people to put their new coding skills to the test as they are tasked with designing a new app or game idea to raise awareness about an issue, trying to solve a problem, offering a service, or supporting a cause through tech. Their ideas will be judged by a panel of technology experts for a chance to win prizes for their youth clubs to run further coding activities.
Since its launch, Generation Code has helped more than 200 youth workers and over 2,000 young people with the six-session coding curriculum. Around 89% of these young people had never participated in coding before and only 2% had experienced coding in their youth club. Through the programme, both youth workers and young people have reported an increase in confidence and improvement in their attitude towards coding.
Coding is no longer an option, it’s a necessity. We’re proud that many of our Generation Code delivery organisations are helping young people explore the possibilities of coding for the first time. But we want people to demystify the digital world, get creative, get connected and get coding.
Sarah Parkes is Programme Co-ordinator for Generation Code at UK Youth