The Province of British Columbia is doubling down on deepening its technology talent pool, reaching out to teach computer coding to children at the kindergarten level.
A significant portion of the $100 million BC Tech Fund under the province’s #BCTECH Strategy is focused on developing computer skills among children in kindergarten, grade 12 and post-secondary level, improving access to work experience electives, improving existing coding academies and dual-credit partnerships between secondary and post-secondary institutions.
“Over the next three years, every kindergarten to grade 12 student will have the opportunity to learn the basics of coding and all those fundamental tech skills,” Premier Christy Clark told an audience of some 2,800 people at the inaugural BC Tech Summit on Monday.
Clark also said the province will provide $4.5 million over the next five years to employers and organizations in the tech sector to help their existing and future employees upgrade their tech skills.
She said she intends to eventually make it mandatory for children in B.C. from kindergarten to grade 12 to learn to code.
K12 curricular changes will also focus on math, sciences, creativity and developing fundamental skills for some 600,000 students over the next 10 years. High school students will also have greater access to work experience electives.
“At the post-secondary level, we want even more success in programming that supports tech careers,” according to the #BCTECH Strategy Web site. “”We’re providing financial aid grants targeted towards post-secondary students in programs that align with the tech sector.”
For example, the BC Innovation Council (BCIC) created the B.C. Tech Co-op Grants Program to provide business and skills training to students and provide talent to small tech companies.
Employers will receive a grant of up to $2,700 covering 25 per cent or approximately one month, of the student’s salary in a typical four-month co-op placement.
The provincial government is also supporting the implementation of advanced research laboratories in B.C. through grants, support to researchers, funded research projects and funding research infrastructure through the B.C. Knowledge Development Fund.
The provincial government is also streamlining immigration processes and labour mobility in order to attract skilled workers from across Canada and around the world.
Apart from B.C.’s Provincial Nominee Program and federal immigration pathways, the provincial government will also promote its Express Entry program for workers with “in-demand technology skills.” The province is also funding a foreign qualifications recognition project “to help new immigrants fit their skills into alternative, in-demand careers in B.C.’s technology sector,” according to the #BCTECH Strategy.