13 August 2018

Code Club at UKFast - what inspires a child

Some of the young people that inspire us at UKFast – this group of apprentices in the back running a Code Club for the children in the front.

Whenever anyone asks me for career or business advice, this is my instant reply. What is your passion?

Surprisingly, so many people respond by saying that they don’t know what their passion is. How can you make a success of anything if you’re not passionate about it?

It’s interesting when we look back to our childhoods, just how many markers there were of what the future holds. Take Stephen Spielberg for example. The world-renowned movie director spent his childhood days terrifying his three younger sisters with pranks. It’s said he once locked them in a closet with a skeleton whose eyes glowed! This passion for provoking emotion in people and entertaining, no doubt, paved the way for his illustrious career doing just that through his movies.

If you ask my parents, I was always looking to solve problems. From selling sweets to kids at school when they’d eaten their term’s supply, to rearranging signs in my first job to boost the businesses’ overall efficiency; there was always a different way to think about things. There was always an opportunity! Of course, looking back it’s easy to now say that I was destined to become an entrepreneur. However, at the time, I was just seen as the naughty kid who wasn’t academically gifted. I was great at sports but I had no passion for sitting in the classroom.

A unique gift

 It’s worth remembering this as we look to education. We’ve worked with schools and universities for more than a decade. Throughout this time we’ve championed all children, not just those who are academically bright. Every person, every child, has their own unique gift. That could be art, sciences, problem or puzzle-solving, or they could have an incredible way with words. Whatever it is, it’s essential that we don’t miss it because they don’t tick the conventional boxes of academic success.

At our Code Club events, we see children as young as five or six years of age showing a real flair for the thinking styles needed for a career in coding. These kids aren’t playing computer games, they’re building them themselves. It’s extraordinary. Yet, as they move through school, this passion is pulled in different directions and can easily be led off course, especially for young girls. For some reason, coding and computer programming is still not seen as something for ‘girls to do’.

Code Club May 2018 at UKFast childcare and work-life balance

UKFast apprentice Sally leading the Star Code Club.

It’s so frustrating and we simply must see change within schools and with education providers themselves: once we change teachers’ attitudes towards careers in tech – and help them to grow their own technical skillsets – I am certain we’ll see more and more digital skills coming into the workplace. At the schools in Trafford, where we started our work with education a decade or so ago, they now see double the number of tech qualifications than their Manchester counterparts.

Nurturing their passion

 That can’t come too soon if Education Secretary Damian Hinds is to be believed. This week, he has called on the tech industry to help transform classrooms to tackle the gaps in digital skills. Ultimately, there’s only so much that the government and teachers can do themselves. The UKFast team have visited schools across the country to collaborate with tech teachers. Quite often we find that they’re self-taught. That’s why we’ve introduced free courses to help teachers to upskill. And, having seen kids learning code with pencil and paper, is the reason why we’ve introduced six Raspberry Pi café tech suites into schools and youth centres this year alone.

Ultimately it’s up to all of us to ensure that children and young people are able to pursue their passions, no matter their background, circumstance or academic success.


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