Google: Interest in computer science education is exploding globally

Digital

The Commission's Grand Coalition initiative to create digital jobs is on track, says Google. [(Jason Wong/Flickr)]

The digital industry is increasingly being asked to assist educational providers in making computer science learning more engaging for students. Lack of digital skills will result in a shortfall of 900,000 jobs within the sector by 2020, says Jon Steinberg.

Jon Steinberg is Google’s External Relations Manager. He spoke to Henriette Jacobsen.

What is your review of the progress that has been made in the EU on digital jobs since the Grand Coalition was set up in 2013?

We have seen a real increase in the amount of attention and focus from across the private and public sector on the importance of digital jobs. We see all across Europe new initiatives developed to provide training to young people, small businesses, people looking for new careers and the unemployed. These are all making a valuable contribution to improving skills and filling this skills gap.

At Google, we’re playing our part. Because the opportunities afforded by the digital economy are still limited if people don’t have the right skills. At current rates, the EU predicts a shortfall of 900,000 jobs by 2020 due to a lack of digital skills, and there are many businesses that want to get online, but don’t know where to start.

Over the last year we have have helped tens of thousands of German entrepreneurs export through partnerships with DHL, PayPal and Commerzbank. We have trained tens of thousands of young, unemployed people in Spain with free courses on subjects like web development, digital marketing, and ecommerce. And, we have shown thousands of traditional Italian craftspeople how to sell and market their wares online. 

As part of the Grand Coalition, earlier this year we announced that Google will train one million Europeans in crucial digital skills by the end of 2016.

We will invest an additional €25 million to broaden our current programs, and take them to new markets across Europe to train more small businesses on the digital skills they so need.

We are also building a Europe-wide training hub to support businesses anywhere in Europe to get training online. 

How do you collaborate with or assist educational systems in the EU to ensure that digital skills that are needed for the future become part of the curriculum?

While decisions on curriculum are best left to educators and policymakers, we collaborate with teachers, students and organisations that help to deliver computer science education. We created a program called CS First that provides free, easy-to-use computer science enrichment materials for running after school clubs for young people.

We created a collection of lesson plans and videos for teachers called Exploring Computational Thinking to help integrate computational thinking into the classroom activities. We also set up Google Science Fair, encouraging young people to explore innovative ideas. 

What has been the response to your initiatives from the educational providers? 

We find educational providers are appreciative of our efforts to support them in delivering computer science teaching both in the classroom and in the community through inspiring extra-curricular activities and to create opportunities for young people to get excited about these fields.

Do you think that coding and digital skills are high enough up on the educational providers’ agenda?

We see a lot of agreement about the need for digital skills. Interest in computer science education is exploding globally and industry is increasingly being called on to help make rigorous computer science learning more engaging and more accessible to all students. 

The current most pressing need is how we can support educators in their teaching and we therefore have a strong focus on supporting teacher professional development through programmes like CS4HS

I know you have some ongoing projects in Italy and Spain. Are you trying to be present in EU countries with high rates of unemployment and youth unemployment?

We support the growth of digital skills all across Europe as part of our pledge to help train one million Europeans by the end of 2016. We tailor these programs in each country to meet the local needs. As youth unemployment has been a particular challenge in Italy and Spain, we are proud of the contribution we are making in each country to create new opportunities for young people.

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