“The only thing missing from these communities is opportunity, so it’s amazing to see what happens when you can provide that opportunity.” Jen Kim, deputy director at #YesWeCode
Projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggest that by 2020, there will be 1 million more computer science-related job openings than people qualified to fill them. What if we could empower the children and teenagers of today to become the tech creators and innovators of tomorrow? With the support of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, #YesWeCode is helping digitally disadvantaged young people to learn the highly valuable and relevant skill of computer programming.
#YesWeCode is a national initiative to help train 100,000 kids for future careers in tech. Recognizing the racial and economic disparity in digital literacy among youth, the organization researched the digital landscape to identify how it could increase access to digital resources and create new opportunities for youth.
As a result, founders Van Jones, Amy Henderson and Cheryl Contee developed #YesWeCode Hackathons, where local youth team up with professional developers, innovators, designers and mentors to create apps to benefit their communities. Through hands-on workshops, kids learn more than basic tech skills. According to Jen Kim, deputy director at #YesWeCode, they are “given the understanding that they too could become the next Mark Zuckerberg.” Youth are also equipped with transferable life skills through their participation. Hackathons revolve around ideation, problem solving, research, development and presentation – tools which are relevant to all facets of life.
In line with the Kellogg Foundation’s commitment to creating opportunities for all children to thrive, #YesWeCode envisions low-opportunity youth as the next generation of tech talent waiting to be unleashed. By equipping youth with coding skills, the organization is cultivating a cohort of future programmers and leaders. During a recent Hackathon, students were encouraged to examine the challenges facing education systems in their communities and develop apps to improve these systems.
#YesWeCode most recently concentrated efforts in the Bay Area. In October 2015, #YesWeCode developed an online-resource called BayAreaCodes.org. #YesWeCode has also launched its job-training pilot, called the Coding Corps program, which provides technical training and access to paid apprenticeships in top tech companies, such as eBay and Twitter. The #YesWeCode Coding Corps was launched in partnership with the White House’s TechHire initiative earlier in 2015.
The lack of diversity in tech is startling and the trend continues with our youth. In fact, in 2015, there were nine states where not one African American student took the AP Computer Science Exam. By opening the world of programming to youth, #YesWeCode is not only helping to bridge that gap, but is also creating a better future. From introducing youth to programming during Hackathons and serving as a repository for training resources to apprenticeships and job placement, #YesWeCode is bringing diversity to tech.
To learn more, visit www.YesWeCode.org