The Media Centre in Huddersfield has decided to tackle the digital skills shortage head on, with the launch of its own Code Club for nine-11 year olds. Having now run three weeks of free sessions for youngsters from the region, the hope is that more digital businesses and schools will collaborate to provide more coding opportunities for young people.
Eighteen budding developers attended the most recent workshops during the half-term holidays, learning how to use the visual programming language Scratch and the more advanced Python programming language.
Guidance was available throughout from The Media Centre’s CEO Brent Woods – a STEM Ambassador – and a team of software engineering experts from Elder Studios, who support the programme by volunteering their time to teach club members.
But with the sessions a ‘sell out’ to date, Brent is encouraging more schools and professionals to get behind the concept.
“In the modern employment landscape, digital literacy is as important as English and numeracy skills,” he explains. “And the great thing is that there seems to be a real appetite among youngsters, to learn code.
“But if we are to inspire the next generation of digital experts, and plug the increasingly likely skills gap, we need to increase the momentum with which we support their development while they have no creative inhibitions.”
The UK’s rapidly growing digital industry has been widely reported on in the media, with research showing it will outperform all other sectors in terms of jobs growth by 2020. More locally, in Kirklees – the district in which The Media Centre is based – creative and digital is the fastest growing sector, employing more than 5,000 people and contributing £100m to the local economy.
However, in February 2015, a House of Lords Digital Skills Committee report said the UK is failing to address its digital skills shortage. Shortly afterwards, in May, Digital Skills Committee chair Baroness Morgan addressed the urgent need for more industry input into education.
Brent added: “Code Club is a nationwide network of extra-curricular learning, and I’m told that there are 250 Code Clubs, and counting, in Yorkshire alone. However, the majority of these are in schools, and I think we, as creative and digital professionals, have a responsibility to proactively address the skills shortage as well.
At the age of nine, a child’s instinct it to explore, experiment and try new things. We want to harness this ingenuity, to inspire more children to grow.”
Linda Broughton, Regional Coordinator for Code Club in Yorkshire said: “Code Club aims to give children the opportunity to build their ideas with code.
“It’s fantastic what The Media Centre, in the heart of Huddersdfield’s creative and digital community, is doing to create opportunities for kids, and shows that Code Clubs work in lots of different locations. Our aim is to double the number of Code Clubs in our region so I’d encourage schools, parents and digital companies to get involved and follow The Media Centre’s excellent example.”
The Media Centre plans to run another week of workshops for up to 24 young people, in February half term. Brent added: “We want as many young learners to have access to Code Club as possible. We therefore need more schools and more businesses to link up to make it happen.”