Campaign aims to educate Canada's youth sooner about changing technology

OTTAWA – A campaign aimed at encouraging young people to get into computer programming is getting a boost from Justin Trudeau.

The prime minister is set to join the co-founders of Canada Learning Code and today to mark the launch of Computer Science Education Week at an event called Hour of Code, with several dozen students gathered at Ottawa-based e-commerce firm Shopify.

Melissa Sariffodeen, who heads Ladies Learning Code, says while nearly all youth in Canada are tech consumers, they aren’t given enough opportunities to actually build the technology they use.

A report released in March projected that Canada’s economy will create at least 218,000 tech jobs between now and 2020.

But the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) says there aren’t enough people to fill them.

The not-for-profit council has called for reforms to Canada’s education and economic policies, including starting computer science education in kindergarten and offering tax credits to small businesses to hire IT people.

Sariffodeen says with so many jobs becoming tenuous as a result of changing technology, it’s important that schools expose students to high-tech opportunities that could lead to more stable employment.

Businesses are falling behind in adopting new technologies, she said, adding that more needs to be done to encourage women, aboriginals, immigrants and people with disabilities to fill the country’s high-tech gap.

“Parts, if not all, of our work will be transformed by technology,” said Sariffodeen.

“So it’s not just about creating (software) developers for the future, but it’s about up-scaling Canadians as well to have enough understanding of technology that, as their jobs change, they can keep up with them.”