Microsoft helped 7000 young Australians take up coding this week

Miles Willis/Getty Images

A week-long campaign to push tech literacy has allowed over 7000 Australian students to learn computer coding as part of the #WeSpeakCode campaign, led by Microsoft.

Launched in 2012, Microsoft’s YouthSpark program was designed to encourage more young Australians to pick up computer coding especially after it was found that Australian students were lagging behind their Asia Pacific counterparts.

Research by Microsoft revealed only 32 per cent of Australian students had been given a chance to learn coding at school — the lowest percentage in the countries surveyed.

The program started on Monday with over 800 students from more than 30 different schools attending the event at the University of Technology (UTS) in Sydney alone.

“Coding is the key to change,” said Pip Marlow, Managing Director of Microsoft Australia.

“Through the use of code, computer programmers are working on amazing and innovative new ideas, using technology to improve the way we live, consume and interact with people from around the world.”

In recent years, the low number of students enrolling in STEM and technology-related courses has been blamed for the shortage of tech talent in Australia.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, STEM skills jobs grow at about 1.5 times the
rate of other jobs with approximately 18% of the Australian workforce with STEM qualifications in design, engineering, science and ICT.

“Improving the technology skills of students is essential for Australia to remain competitive and prosperous in a globalised world,” said Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull at the launch of the event.

“We need to expose more students to coding so they are inspired to create, build and develop new technologies rather than just being passive users of it,” he said.

In his budget reply speech, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten also called for a push in computer coding for primary and high school students saying that “coding is the literacy of the 21st century” and the “global language of the digital age”.

“A career in science does not just mean a lifetime in a lab coat, it means opening doors in every facet of our commercial life,” said Shorten.

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