Many parents have a sneaky suspicion about their kids’ natural interests and how they could influence their future career. Not all of those interests point to a career as a ‘computer developer’ though. But the forecast is for a highly wired future. In fact, projected employment growth for Computer System Design and Related Services for the five years to November 2020 is forecast at a whopping 17.3%, according to a Department of Employment: Employment Projections 2016 report. So should kids learn computer code now to score the jobs of the future?
As a mum, I had never considered what the actual jobs of the future might be. Or how my son Maxwell, 8, could develop skills now, and combine them with his natural strengths and passions, to land his dream career in the future.
Hayley Markham has though. The mother of three, Ellie, 5, Milly, 4 and Lu, 1, says “teaching kids computer code now can have a big impact on our children’s future job opportunities.”
And she may be on the money. App and software developers could be poised for great prosperity. But how many of our kids are learning the skills they need to score these future jobs?
Like many parents, Hayley says wasn’t tech-savvy at all and didn’t understand the importance of coding skills for her children’s future. That is, until she joined Code Camp as their Operations Manager. Code Camp runs workshops during the school holidays that teach kids computer code, and the kids get to create their very own computer game. From scratch.
“I’ve learned a lot working with Code Camp,” says Hayley. “I didn’t realise coding was going to be so important for future jobs, but employment forecasts show that these skills are really important for our kids to have.
“It’s frustrating for me as a parent that computer coding won’t be a prioritised part of the primary school curriculum for years. If we don’t teach our children now, they will be behind the next generation of kids.”
In 2011, just 1.6% – or 173,261 people of a total labour force of 10,658,45 – were employed as ICT professionals (includes computer programming roles), according to Australian Bureau of Statistics 2011 Census data. Employment growth in computer system design and related services is predicted to grow by 17.3% by 2020.
Code Camp: What Kids Learn
Hayley says at Code Camp, kids build their own computer game from start to finish. “The students learn things that adults don’t even know – and they’re so excited about it! My daughter, Milly, is about to do her third Code Camp and she loves it!”
“Each student has a laptop and starts with a black screen, then develops their own creative design using code. The teacher talks them through the code and they develop their game as they go. The kids get to be really creative – it’s like a techy-art class. They think about what they want their game to be and decide everything that happens. They choose the characters they want, like animals or superheroes, and how they will move.”
“They create an environment, which could be dessert, space, moons, rocks, spikes, oceans or a mermaid theme. They choose the screen colours and backgrounds, like rainbows, rain, sky … They might be on Mars in one level and have a Frozen theme on the next.
“They also decide how their game works, like collecting coins or other ways. It’s a high-level creative activity where kids can tap into their creative side and imagination. But more importantly, they’re learning the coding skills to create their game, and really thinking about the logistics of how things work to create movement.”
Been There, Coded That!
Computer-savvy dad Eamon Williams enrolled his son, Chaz, 7, into Code Camp, and his daughter, Ashling, 5, is already learning the fundamentals of coding on an app at home.
“I watched a documentary on SBS about how everyone, including children, should learn a second language – and ‘computer code’ is the fastest growing language in the world,” explains Eamon.
“Learning code will open doors to so many jobs in the future. Soon, every device in the home will be connected to the internet – the fridge will alert you to say ‘there’s no milk’, you’ll even be able to watch your pet via video streaming, or throw them a ball, from your office!
Eamon says his son, Chaz, already had a knack for code, but he wanted him to learn how apps actually work. “He developed his own little platform game with five levels,” explains Eamon. “It was like Super Mario, but with monsters! During the development, he could share it with his classmates, and if they thought it was too easy, Chaz could modify the game to make it harder. He was so excited to show us the game when it was finished! He is very proud of himself. It’s incredible to think that a 7-year-old can build computer games now!”
Eamon says his daughter, Ashling, 5, will also be doing Code Camp in the future. In the meantime, Ashling is learning computer code basics on children’s developmental apps at home.
“We downloaded two apps, Hopscotch and Daisy The Dinasaur for Ashling to explore and learn by ‘dragging and dropping’ blocks of code,” says Eamon. “She gets to see how the different code blocks affect how her on-screen dinosaurs move around the screen. It’s great for teaching her the fundamentals. Both my kids really love code!”
When Your Child Isn’t A Computer Coding Genius
Not all parents are as computer savvy as Eamon, but that’s ok. It doesn’t matter if you – or your child – aren’t short code keyboard geniuses.
Hayley says kids at all levels can learn, and should learn, computer code now. “Code Camp caters for different levels from K to 7,” she says. “It doesn’t matter if they aren’t the smartest or quickest in the class. Everyone can do it and complete the game. And, like art, children will have a creative product at the end that is unique and designed by them.
“I wouldn’t have thought it was for my kids. I know they aren’t going to be top of the class, but they’ll have computer skills that other kids won’t have – and that is pretty exciting. They having fun and learning important skills for the future.”
Code Kids Of The Future
Code Camp has already seen more than 10,000 students through their doors in Sydney and Melbourne and they’re getting ready to walk the talk in Brisbane (and Sydney and Melbourne), just in time for the Summer holidays.
Co-founder and self-described ‘chief nerd’ Dan Zwolenski says learning to code is about more than becoming a developer. “When you’re 8 years old, creating your own game is one step short of getting into Hogwarts,” he says. “Code Camp allows students to be creative with technology, while developing logical thinking and problem solving skills. We teach them to be creators of technology, not just passive consumers.”
The three and four day coding camps are being held from December 5 at multiple school-based locations across each city and cater to children from as young as five years old.
Code Camp runs three programs
- Little League Code Camp (Years K-1)
- Code Camp Spark & Ignite (Years 2-7)
- Code Camp Leap (For students who have mastered Spark & Ignite Camps)
When: Various dates from December 5, 2016 – January 20, 2017
Where: Various locations across Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane
Cost: Camps start from $350 for 3 days or $440 for a 4 days. Camps run from 9am – 3:30pm.
Bookings: Essential. Visit Code Camp for details.s Of The Future