There are plenty of schools with computers. But find a teacher with tech industry experience and you’ve found a “unicorn,” says a school director who wants to introduce kids to the language of coding.
Lyel Resner, director of K-12 curriculum at New York’s Flatiron School, is promoting a series of summer workshops across six U.S. cities to teach high school students programming fundamentals, app development, front-end web design and how to get a startup off the ground.
“Increasingly at the national level, there is recognition that computer science needs to be a focus of public education,” Resner told Cult of Mac. “We’re trying to attack the problem head on. We just don’t have a pipeline to generate talent domestically. (Employers) are pretty desperate for solutions right now.”
Resner is referring to a controversial phenomenon known as the “skills gap.” Recruiters and CEOs complain they are unable to find qualified people to fill the growing number of tech jobs. Some economists believe employers are hiding behind the so-called gap as a way to avoid doing any hiring.
Resner says the summer computer workshops in Chicago, New York City, Boston, Miami, Austin, Texas, and Greenwich, Conn., will take students deeper into industry-needed skills and give them a proper sense of how important coding and designs skills are to a variety of professions. Click on the city for details on an upcoming summer program near you.
A good idea is not enough, so academy students will learn business essentials like sales, finance, marketing and project management, Resner said.
“We got really good at helping adults,” Resner said of the school that is over two years old. “We keep the energy up with intense collaboration and project-based learning. It doesn’t matter if you never coded before. It’s no problem if you’ve never touched a computer before. There’s endless material to challenge kids at every level.”
Howard Tullman, CEO of tech incubator 1871 in Chicago, said he does not need elaborate statistics to know there’s a problem finding qualified people for the industry. He said his company’s recruiter can’t find enough computer scientists, engineers or coders to meet the demands of the companies represented at 1871.
He sees positive signs within Chicago and Illinois. Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants every kid in Chicago Public Schools exposed to basic coding and new Gov. Bruce Rauner wants education funding earmarked for technology.
“There’s equipment in the schools, but they’re way behind the instruction that goes with it,” Tullman said. “We think code should be the second language in schools. This is the population that is the most appropriate because they’re the most open to learning this kind of stuff.”