During a recent, week-long “cool coding” camp, more than 350 Vigo County School Corp. students received an introduction to a skill set that could open the door to good-paying technology jobs in the future.
Coding involves providing instructions to a computer, said Shelley Klingerman, executive director of Launch Terre Haute. In the past, it’s been called computer programming.
Eleven Fifty Academy, a nonprofit organization that provides instruction on coding, and TechPoint Foundation For Youth, conducted a “Cool Coding Awareness Week” in Terre Haute the week of June 6.
“We were hoping for 60 to 70 kids to register for the camp, and we ended up having more than 350 attend over the week,” Klingerman said. Different sessions took place for those in elementary, middle and high school at Terre Haute North Vigo High School.
Each session was 2 to 2 1/2 hours for one day; some kids came the first day and asked to come back the following day to do it again, Klingerman said. The “Hour of Code,” a camp for second- through fifth-graders, had the most interest.
The week-long camp was free to students, the result of a grant that Launch Terre Haute applied for and received from Old National Bank Foundation. Other partners were the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce, Terre Haute Savings Bank, AT&T and Vectren.
Stephanie Castleman, Eleven Fifty Academy director of outreach, said the future job potential for those skilled in coding is limitless. “Right now, nationwide, we are facing a skills gap as far as coding and jobs in information technology or computer science,” she said.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, by 2020, there will be 1.4 million computer/information technology jobs available, with a skilled workforce of only 400,000 to fill them.
Eleven Fifty Academy has created a comprehensive education program that starts with a week-long blitz called Cool Coding Awareness Week, which delivers age-appropriate content to students from kindergarten through 12th grade and extends to interested members of the community.
For students in grades K/1, an ABC book that introduces children to some of the basic coding terms is provided to the school district.
The week’s activities also included an Intro to Coding class for those ages 16 and older, which involved two days of instruction — eight hours per day.
By starting when students are young, the goal is to “create a hub of coding talent in Indiana,” Castleman said.
For high school graduates unable to immediately attend colleges, at the Eleven Fifty Academy, “we can get them job ready within 21 weeks” and prepared for jobs that could potentially pay $50,000 and higher, Castleman said. “They can always go back to school and take classes as they can afford them.”
While the week-long camp has ended, efforts to grow interest in coding isn’t. TechPoint Foundation For Youth — or TPF4Y — establishes a “CoderDojo” coding club in each community where the coding camp is offered. It is for students ages 7 to 17, and students learn how to code, develop websites, apps, programs, games and explore technology.
The club is expected to begin in the fall, Klingerman said.