More than 1100 students participate in Hour of Code event

West Michigan’s IT industry is one of the fastest growing in the nation with a growth rate +6.5% over the national average.  And the increasing use of technology in the workforce is creating a growing need for IT workers across other industries including health care, retail and manufacturing.  It’s no wonder employers are concerned about the availability of future IT talent and are looking for ways to expose youth to technology occupations.

A recent initiative brought technology to life for more than 1100 West Michigan students. During this year’s Hour of Code, 49 IT professionals visited classrooms throughout the region in order to demystify code and show students that computer science can be fun and creative. And a future career choice.

“I wanted to volunteer as a mentor because I used to have the perception that coding was very difficult. My perception changed when I started working with developers on the CET Designer platform, an all-in-one software for space planning and configuration of products. I discovered anyone can code and I want kids to know that too. Hour of Code reinforces, at an early age, that anyone can code–especially girls. We need more girls doing this.”

-Amy Edington, Visualization Architect at Herman Miller

Discovery Elementary, one of 21 participating schools, has hosted multiple Hour of Code sessions.  “Every year I watch Hour of Code in my class and am inspired,” said Becky Brown, third grade teacher. “The kids get to see their code come to life on the screen and get so excited. I know they will continue to do more on their own!”

The goal of the program isn’t to teach students how to be computer scientists in an hour, but to provide an introduction to technology to as many students as possible and ultimately, see broader participation in the industry across gender, ethic and socioeconomic groups.  It is one of several West Michigan initiatives aimed at creating a pool of talent for the high-demand industry.

“It is hard to overstate the importance of exposing kids to technology in a way that does not intimidate and allows for passion,” said John Vancil, Director of Professional Services for OST and member of West Michigan Tech Talent, an industry group aimed at developing the region’s IT workforce.  “There are fantastic careers that will require and be enhanced by technology and the ability to leverage technology.”