Why teaching high school students to code can close the tech talent gap

Getting young people, and especially young women, interested in coding will help widen the pool of tech talent available to businesses.

Why companies need to teach high school students to code

Kentucky high school students are learning Swift and Java in a new immersive programming course that can lead to a paid IT apprenticeship. The program, run by a branch of the Louisville, KY-based tech services company Interapt called Interapt Skills, offers students class credit toward graduation, as well as nine credit hours from the Kentucky Community and Technical College System.

At a recent Interapt Skills event in Louisville, KY, I spoke with Crystal Adkins, an Android instructor for Interapt Skills and an Interapt graduate herself, about why we need to get young women interested in computer science to fill tech skills gaps. Here is the transcript of our conversation.

SEE: IT Hiring Kit: Programmer (Tech Pro Research)

Rayome: What is Interapt Skills?

Adkins: Interapt skills is a program that we started here in Louisville with high school students, to help teach them how to code so they are better prepared for the workforce. Or, if they want to go to college, it gives them some more real-world experience into what software development is going to be once they get out.

Rayome: Why is it so important to get young women interested in technology, and programs like this?

Adkins: As a woman, I see that I'm very much a minority in tech. And when we start to reach these students in high school, it gets more females interested in the field. So one other reason we reach out to the high school students is because some students don't really know what they want to do when they get out of high school. They don't have a plan, they don't know if they're going to go to college. So this is a way for them to get some real world experience in something that will possibly give them an idea of what they want to do. Because when you're a software developer, you don't have to necessarily go to college to be a software developer. You know, you can become an entrepreneur and create your own things or you can go into computer science-type majors. So you have both of those choices.

Rayome: How can getting more women and young people interested in tech help close the talent gap?

Adkins: There is a really big discrepancy between people who are able to do tech and companies who need skilled workers. So if we give the students the skills that they need at an early age, they will be able to go into the workforce sooner, and help shorten this gap between the skilled workers and what employers need now.

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