Salesforce Foundation has handed CoderDojo a cheque for $200,000 to grow its network of volunteers who run code clubs around the world.
The foundation's president, Suzanne DiBianca, presented CoderDojo CEO Mary Moloney with the cheque at the Salesforce World Tour event in London.
The grant aims to support 14 CoderDojo code clubs – or Dojos – globally, with each of them being run by Salesforce.com "champions". Some 70 Salesforce employees will be trained as certified Dojo mentors and the clubs will aim to reach 420 young people with a 50:50 ratio of boys and girls in each session.
Moloney said with Salesforce Foundation’s support, the charity will attempt to reach as many children as possible.
“It’s our vision that every child in the world should have the opportunity to learn how to code and discover the magic behind the technology, which they interact with in their everyday lives,” she told Computer Weekly.
“We also need to be there as a team ourselves, so when someone running a session has a problem or a question, such as child support issues or insurance questions, we’re there for them as a team,” she said.
Salesforce Foundation Europe director Charlotte Finn added: “We are really excited to be partnering with CoderDojo.
“My four-year-old now has a path and the chance to decide if a career in technology is for him – or it might be in Stem [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] in general," she said.
Stemettes, a group designed to encourage more girls into Stem careers, recently unveiled the Outbox Incubator programme to offer support and funding for girls aged between 11 and 22 who want to launch their own science or technology-based business.
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Finn, who attended the Outbox Incubator launch, drew attention to some of the things young people are doing with technology and how they need to be encouraged further.
“At the Stemettes launch I met a girl who had made 127,000 measurements on 12,000 seeds after she realised there is an issue with seed germination – she started the project when she was 13 and is now 17,” she said.
According to Finn, the technology industry needs to ensure young people know they are solving a problem first and foremost.
“When you speak to young people and they say they want to go into medicine, it’s important to let them know that this doesn’t just mean being a doctor or a nurse, but includes utilising technology for patient care and helping with recovery. Tech gives children the opportunity to solve real world problems," she said.
“Technology is not a single facet such as software, hardware or telecoms. Tech is the medium and it’s what you do with it that is the game-changer in whatever you do or wherever you want to work.”
Young people should not be intimidated by tech sector
Finn told Computer Weekly that she fell into the tech industry after realising the potential of the internet.
“When I was young I wanted to be an airline operator, but it was difficult to get into. I ended up working for the UK’s first commercial internet service provider, Pipex, and it was there that I fell in love with the internet. Suddenly I realised the opportunities are limitless,” she said.
Moloney is another tech professional who fell into the industry. She said learning to code herself changed her whole career path.
We currently teach kids to learn by curriculum, but we are not teaching them to be a successful person and to think
Mary Moloney, CoderDojo
“I did a law degree and thought I was going to be the next Ally McBeal by getting straight into the courtroom, but it turned out it wasn’t as exciting as I thought it would be," said Moloney.
"Lots of people were talking about Accenture at the time, so I applied and got a job offer. I learnt Colbol programming, which is not the nicest of programming languages, but it opened my eyes to what happens behind the screen so I could understand the process and not be intimidated by it.
Both of the ladies agreed that more young people should not be intimidated by the tech sector or the notion of coding, so they choose IT as their first career choice.
Moloney added: “An idea can definitely become something very quickly nowadays, especially with open source and sharing. It is not enough to say something is too hard. The coders out there are no smarter than you or I, they are just applying their skills in a different way. Yes, not everyone will have the mindset of an engineer, but everyone can learn basic coding.
“Sometimes it’s the language we use that needs to change, such as talking about coders as ‘nerds’ or ‘geeks’. Young girls in particular don’t want to be known as nerdy, they think ‘I want to be me and just do stuff, build stuff',” she said.
The way that children are taught today needs to be tweaked, according to Moloney.
“To be successful in academia you have to be able to repeat facts, not think. We currently teach kids to learn by curriculum, but we are not teaching them to be a successful person and to think,” she said.
Since 1999, the Salesforce Foundation has provided more than $85m in grants, with Salesforce employees racking up more than 920,000 volunteer hours globally.