AOL sponsors youth coding program

The media technology company has partnered with Brainstation educational institution to teach youth the first principles of coding.
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In an effort to inspire youth – especially girls – to join the coding world, Toronto-based Brainstation Academy is running a summer program that will reach 150 high school students in Toronto, Waterloo and Vancouver.

The program, which kicks off in August 2015, will run over four consecutive weekends. All 150 students enrolled in the program will receive full scholarships thanks to funding from AOL Canada, Deloitte Digital and the Konrad Group.

“It’s not just random philanthropy,” says Joe Strolz, general manager of AOL Canada, which does a significant amount of community-driven philanthropy and has donated 70 billion impressions to 500 non-profit organizations. “It is not just what our opportunity is moving forward, but also what the needs of the market are to realize that opportunity.”

Other similar initiatives have been launched elsewhere in Canada, responding to a growing gender gap in the sciences. Last fall, MasterCard launched a CSR initiative aimed at bringing more female developers into the work space. The company partnered with Ladies Learning Code, a non-profit organization, to reach girls between the ages of eight and 13, and draw them into the world of coding.

For the Brainstation program, experienced instructors and industry speakers will use real-time curriculum to share their knowledge with the selected students. Over the period of the program, youth will get to plan, build and develop websites for causes that are important to them. “We are creating an in-class experience that imbues youth with a passion for technology,” says Jason Field, who founded the institution.

Strolz believes we are entering what he calls, “the third wave in the internet of things,” during which our perception of the internet will disappear. “Devices will begin talking to devices, and provide value in ways that are far more intuitive than sitting behind a desktop.”

Facing an acute shortage in talent in the future, Canada isn’t prepared for this third stage. It’s also why the Konrad Group, a digital agency stepped into the mix. “…digital education must start earlier, and be more in tune with the real requirements of industry,” explained Bill Konrad, the co-CEO and co-founder of the group.

Digital natives are growing up on a diet of consumption, not creation, believes Strolz. Moreover, fewer girls are interested in coding or creating on the internet. “We believe that it is critical in order to realize the potential of the third wave, that the youth of today need to be learning the active creation component not just the consumption component of the internet.”