[This is part of a monthly series highlighting Notman’s community partners]
Over five years ago, Breanna, Heather, Laura and myself gathered together to host a sold out coding workshop in Toronto. A month later, we hosted another workshop that sold out in 30 seconds. And then we hosted another. And another.
Eventually, it came time to formalize our work and we incorporated as a national non-profit organization: Ladies Learning Code, Inc. Today, Ladies Learning Code, Inc. operates Chapters in more than 29 communities from coast to coast and have taught over 50,000 Canadians through our programs for adults, youth, and educators.
But, as it turns out, that was only the beginning.
It might surprise you to learn that when we first started Ladies Learning Code, we didn’t actually realize there was a ‘women in tech’ problem. We just knew that we wanted to learn how to code and that there weren’t any resources in Toronto that catered to people like us. So we built them. And women came — in droves.
Not long after, we launched Girls Learning Code which offered programs like workshops, camps, and field trips for 8-13 year old girls to inspire them to be builders of technology and ultimately shape their future studies and careers. Kids Learning Code, which offers gender-balanced programs for boys and girls in the same style of our other programs, came soon after.
Ladies, Girls, Kids, and Teens programming grew us from one Chapter in Toronto to 29 across the country in cities like Montreal, Victoria, Edmonton and more and inspired a cross-country road trip in our travelling computer lab: the code mobile.
This sparked our next big offering: Teachers Learning Code. At this point, we’d been teaching people to code for over 5 years and teaching people how to teach code so it made perfect sense to extend this beyond our community and into schools teaching educators how to teach coding in their classrooms.
To recap, here’s the how the last 5 years went down:
- First, we launched Ladies Learning Code.
- Next, we launched Girls Learning Code.
- Kids Learning Code followed quickly,
- Then Teens Learning Code,
- And then Teachers Learning Code
…and that brings us to the Spring of 2016
It’s been clear to us for a while now that we were only scratching the surface of what was possible and that there were still millions of Canadians untouched by our programs that need access to critical technology skills. And with a looming technical skills shortage in Canada, we knew that the need to provide Canadians accessible technology education was actually quite pressing.
It was also clear to us that we had created something special with Ladies Learning Code — a super engaged and incredible community across Canada running meaningful technology experiences that we could leverage to create even greater impact.
Meeting after meeting, call after call, we kept circling back to one question: how could we reach our full potential for impact?
Based on our success to date, we saw before us an opportunity to take our impact to the next level by bringing all Canadians into the fold of our programs.
But rather than chipping away at individual segments of the population by simply adding programs like “Newcomers Learning Code” or “Public Servants Learning Code” or “Parents Learning Code” to our roster; we wanted to shift gears and take a more holistic approach that would unite us all together.
After all, we’re in this together as Canadians, and we are all affected in one way or another by the same issues:
- The way we work is changing: From a job market full of temp and contract positions, to the 42% of the Canadian workforce who are at high risk of being affected by automation, the way that we make both meaning and money is changing quickly. We need to use technology to enhance existing jobs, rather than make them obsolete. And then we need to ensure that Canadians receive the training that they need to accommodate the increasingly technical nature of their work.
- We don’t have enough people to fill the jobs that we do have: There is one bright spot in the labour market, and that is the tech sector. It’s constantly adding jobs! The bad news is that we don’t have enough Canadian talent to fill them. In fact, it’s projected that, by the year 2020, there will be a shortage of more than 200,000 ICT workers in Canada.
- There’s a lack of diversity in the tech sector: While progress has been made on this front, the tech sector still remains very homogenous. We need to engage with Canadians from all backgrounds in order to address the pipeline problem — while also working with industry to ensure that the workplaces they will enter are safe and nurturing.
Canada Learning Code
Enter Canada Learning Code.
Canada Learning Code is more than a brand and an organization (but it’s also those things, I’ll get to that in a minute), it’s a vision for the future of Canada — one where we are a world-leading innovative nation whose population is fully equipped to thrive in our digital world.
Over the next 10 years, Canada Learning Code will work to:
- Empower teachers to deliver a curriculum that adapts to and reflects the needs of industry + technology
- Prepare youth to create and work in jobs of the future in Canada
- Ensure that new & transitional digital jobs are filled by workers upskilling with the necessary technology skills
- Diversify the tech sector and ensure access for traditionally underserved communities.
- Promote government innovation, guided by a vision of a government that relies on digital solutions and technology to inform policy and governance
Canada Learning Code will be both the brand and the organization that unites all of our programming, allowing us to leverage our existing infrastructure and capitalize on the strength and size of our existing community, while also giving us room to grow and serve all Canadians…which ultimately gives us the reach to make a dent in some of those big, meaty problems listed above.
Together, we have climbed mountains over the last 5 years. Now, we’re going to move them.
And after we’re done, Canada won’t ever look the same again.
Coding is having a moment in Canada and Canada Learning Code is here, ready and equipped, to turn that excitement and energy into results. But for now, it’s time to step back enjoy the holidays. Be safe, be good, and rest up — because come January 2017, it’s go time!
Melissa Sariffodeen, CEO