What’s the best age to learn to code? Certainly, you can never start too early or get into the field too late: a recent analysis of 26 million job postings found nearly half of jobs in the top salary quartile require some coding skills. Yet fewer than half of all schools teach coding, leaving today’s learners unprepared for tomorrow’s workforce. Organizations committed to helping close the looming skills gap, will ultimately support the next generation of STEM leaders and ensure they have the opportunity to succeed.
“Coding is the universal language of the 21st century, and just like learning any language, the earlier you start, the easier it is,” said Jessica Naziri, founder of TechSesh.co, a community-based organization dedicated to empowering women in STEM. “It’s important that we are inspiring young people to learn to code and giving them access to quality computer science education, so they’ll later be inclined to pursue careers in tech.”
It’s important for companies to invest in and partner with organizations that teach science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills to kids, such as Black Girls Code and Girls Who Code. That’s why we’ve launched our own initiative, Capital One Coders, to do our part to train the future generation of tech leaders. Coders is part of our larger Future Edge initiative that empowers individuals, families and small business owners to succeed in today’s digital economy.
When we were pioneering the program early on, I led a class teaching middle-school girls how to use Raspberry Pi devices to create simple programs. One girl went home and quickly built an automated system to run her family’s chicken coop. She made the door open at a specified time each morning, so she didn’t have to wake up to do it, and then had the lights turn on at a certain time to keep the chickens warm. She saw a problem and promptly figured out how to solve it. I knew right then that middle school was a great time to teach coding; kids that age are creative, inspired, and thoughtful—and many are natural technologists, savvy with social media, smartphones, and computers.
STEM is a State of Mind
With looming gaps in education and earnings, it’s important to teach kids digital skills to prepare them for the future workforce. But it’s also important to inspire them, have fun, and support their dreams. Community-based program meant to inspire kids to think creatively, solve problems, and dream big are one way to achieve this.
“I think many kids don’t choose STEM careers because they simply have no idea what a career in tech would look like,” said Rachel Partridge, a software engineer at Capital One who’s a regular Coders volunteer. She has taught two 10 week sessions and participated in similar one-day Coders events for middle-schoolers. “I show them that it’s fun to work in teams and solve problems, and that coding is just a tool to be creative and collaborate with others.”