ST. JOHN’S, N.L. —
Starting in the next school year, students in Newfoundland and Labrador will get a chance to jumpstart a career in the growing technology sector.
Premier Andrew Furey and Education Minister Tom Osborne announced a new technology-focused curriculum and a memorandum of understanding between the province, the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District (NLESD) and the College of the North Atlantic (CNA) to facilitate the program.
“The search for talent in our digital economy is predicted to intensify in the oncoming years. We need to be ready,” said Furey.
“TechNL estimates that the current capacity for software development graduates from all sources in the province currently meets only 10 to 15 per cent of the industry’s projected skills needs.”
Eight high schools will take part in a pilot project starting in the new school year to begin the technology careers pathway program. Starting in Grade 10, Students will get the chance to study Python, a software coding language, and receive credits transferrable to post-secondary institutions. In grades 11 and 12, post-secondary courses will be offered to give a head start to students’ post-secondary pursuit in the technology field.
The program will also feature a minimum six-week placement over the summer at a technology business in the province.
“The goal of this program is to give students hands-on experiences in technology and innovation, and for those who wish to pursue a diploma or degree after high school, a head start on their post-secondary studies,” said Education Minister Tom Osborne.
The specific schools taking part in the pilot will be decided in the new year.
Osborne says another announcement regarding Memorial University will happen in the coming days.
Tech NL board of directors chair Craig Rowe says the industry needs to close the talent gap, and Tuesday’s announcement will help.
“The size of the industry now is nearly $2 billion and we think that it’s going to double in size in the next five or six years,” said Rowe.
“As we grow and become more successful, that just means we need a lot more people.”
CNA president Elizabeth Kidd says the announcement is exciting for the institution.
“We want high school students to become exposed to computer programming best practices. We want them to learn and develop practical programming skills and have them become more knowledgeable of the potential for a career in this industry,” said Kidd.
“Careers like cyber security, artificial intelligence, IT infrastructure and web development. All this supports the growing need of the sector right here at home.”
Goronwy Price, chair of the NLESD board of trustees, says the education system has been moving toward introducing coding to the curriculum for the K-9 system, so Tuesday’s announcement is a natural progression.
“When students get the opportunity to do something in high school that clearly presents those pathways to their post-secondary learning, it’s definitely a step forward for our education system,” said Price.