Non-profit opens up new opportunities for more young Swedes to learn computer science
Last year, Microsoft launched Upgrade Your World, an initiative celebrating the non-profits who are working to create a better tomorrow and the technology shaping our world. Over the next few months we’ll be highlighting some of our European non-governmental organization (NGO) partners who are making a difference in their communities in countries around the region.
What do Spotify, Ericsson, Minecraft and Candy Crush all have in common? Asides from being well-known technology brands, they all hail from Sweden. Stockholm is now home to over 22,000 technology companies employing 18 percent of the city’s workforce.
Being a dominant force in Europe’s technology sector, Sweden is committed to equipping future generations with the right digital skills to stay competitive. While Sweden enjoys low levels of unemployment, local businesses still find it difficult to fill more technical positions. They are not alone. Across Europe, governments and enterprises are calling for more young children to learn science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), as we prepare new generations for an increasingly digital workforce.
Enter Kodcentrum. Aiming to democratize technology education, Kodcentrum is helping Swedish children to learn digital skills regardless of their socio-economic background, ethnicity or gender. The non-profit offers 9 – 13 year olds free programming lessons, tutorials and access to digital content within “Kodstugor” classes, or “coding cottages”. These are held across several Swedish cities to teach children the basics of computer science. Kodcentrum uses Scratch, a free platform for creating games and animations, and encourages young people to think creatively, solve problems and work collaboratively. Since the first “Kodstugor” in May 2014, over 500 children have taken part. The initiative has even been given the royal seal of approval, after a visit from Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel of Sweden in September 2015.
Emelie Dahlström, General Counsel at Kodcentrum, attributes success to the team’s work ethic. “None of this would be possible without the support and passion of our committed volunteers, most of whom are professionals or student programmers who give up their spare time. They are hugely inspirational for the children to see what can be achieved with technology. Our activities aim to spark an interest in computer science, and kick-start curiosity in a subject which isn’t widely taught in schools. We want to highlight what can be achieved with coding and reduce the skills gap for young people”.
Kodcentrum works with local authorities and global organizations to promote digital inclusion. Microsoft has supported the NGO’s efforts by collaborating on local events for initiatives such as the Hour of Code, plus hackathons and workshops for teachers who want to introduce coding to their classrooms. Microsoft employees can also leave the office for a day to prove how fun coding can be together with Kodcentrum volunteers. One young Swede commented, “It’s very inspiring to hear all these personal experiences from people who work with technology every day. It’s a great chance for us to learn more about the real-life possibilities opened up by computer science. Before this event, I didn’t know what coding was. I’ve loved having the chance to try out something new.”
Kodcentrum sees a future where IT skills are a prerequisite for an increasing number of jobs. By offering every child the chance to learn how to code, regardless of their background, Kodcentrum is helping Sweden to retain its reputation as an IT trailblazer and hub for technology innovators.