The vision of uCodeGirl is to inspire and equip young women to become the future face of innovation in technology. uCodeGirl is uniquely designed to inspire, engage and equip young women with computational design thinking skills, leadership traits, and an entrepreneurial mindset. uCodeGirl strives to remove roadblocks and bridge the gender gap in technology so that young women can confidently pursue opportunities suitable for the 21st century. By building confidence, enhancing skill sets and tapping into their intellect and curiosity, uCodeGirl helps young women chart a pathway to the T of STEM careers.
“I am going to study Computer Science and increase the number of women in technology by one,” said Amanda Kittleson. She was in 9th grade at Davies High School when she proudly declared that to me three years ago after a keynote speech I delivered at Microsoft DigiGirls. It was music to my ears so I invited her to stay involved with uCodeGirl, an enrichment program designed for girls just like her. She is now a second-year Computer Science major at North Dakota State University. The story repeats itself. Girls inspired and encouraged by others to try and explore technical skills, eventually liking it and pursuing a career path that otherwise would have been left uncharted by them. My own career path to a software profession has an arch that is similar to so many stories of area women software professionals who volunteer to mentor young women like Amanda at uCodeGirl. “Had I not had a role model at a young age, I probably would have been in a different career path today,” argues Nicole Haugen, a Software Engineering Principal at Microsoft. Role modeling and mentorship matters to realize one’s potential and be part of the driving force of innovation.
A radical shift to learning is needed if businesses are to achieve the growth promised by intelligent technologies. Forward-thinking companies get this. They invest in programs where high school students get an opportunity to observe, experiment and learn. Whether it is the job shadowing program of Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, the FM Health, Tech & Trades Career Expo at the FargoDome for hands-on knowledge exchange for high school students, the collaborative spirit of the Hour of Code movement during Computer Science Education Week, the Congressional Innovation Challenges, the insightful legislatures’ adoption of the K-12 North Dakota state standard in Computer Science and Cyber Security, or new Computer Science graduate certificate program at NDSU intended to upskill and reskill high school educators in Computer Science – all build and strengthen the T of STEM pipeline.
Look to Today’s Youth to Solve Tomorrow’s Skills Shortages.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (USBLS), the computer and information technology field is expected to grow by 12 percent from 2018 to 2028 — faster than the average growth rate of all occupations.
So that today’s talent shortage doesn’t become tomorrow’s talent crisis, a growing number of job boards such as Snagajob, Localwise and Groovejob are aggregating summer jobs, apprenticeships and internships designed for high school students. For tech companies, hiring high school students means they’re getting a jump start on filling future jobs, screen and retain high performing talent, and create relationships long before the students head to higher institutes.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report describes the workplace of the future as “lean, high-performing and incredibly flexible”. Hiring high school students as interns and apprentices speeds up experiential learning techniques, broadens individuals’ blend of skills, and ensures inclusive access to tomorrow’s skilling solutions.
For students, on the job-training allows for a more intense learning experience and keeps the skills of the workforce adapting to new realities.
Dan Schawbel, a workforce development expert and New York Times bestselling author, asserts students should begin their careers as teenagers in order to be competitive in the college admissions process, for college internships and eventually for full-time jobs.
This can be an effective way of keeping up with the current demand for skills, transfer knowledge across the generational workforce and influence the future of work.