Newspaper article The Canadian Press

B.C. Technology Education Program Aims to Shrink Industry's Diversity Gaps

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

B.C. Technology Education Program Aims to Shrink Industry's Diversity Gaps

Article excerpt

HighTechU emphasizes soft skills, adaptability

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A technology education program officially launching in the fall at the University of Victoria in British Columbia hopes to address a gap in the industry with a novel approach for students.

HighTechU is a pilot program developed through the university's computer science department in partnership with Victoria's technology and education sectors.

It aims to develop skills in enterprising Vancouver Island teens to make them more effective in the tech industry, beyond the primary coding and technical abilities needed.

Andrew MacLean said he and program co-founder Dr. Ulrike Stege wanted to prepare students for the reality of the industry ahead of them, while making diversity a cornerstone of the program.

"It really focuses on the soft skills that go along with that career, and really focuses on workplace competencies for these students," MacLean said from Vancouver Island campus.

"They get a sneak peek and to test drive a technology industry career before they even graduate from high school."

HighTechU has two separate programs -- the Computer Science Skills Academy, a six-week program that teaches coding and practical skills, and a summer industry internship program to give those students an eight-week, paid experience with a local technology company in Victoria.

MacLean said students enrolled in HighTechU are taught "soft skills" such as project management and personal communication to help them better understand the breadth of roles in the tech sector.

Stege said there appears to be a perception of what working in the tech sector is like, which she says is not necessarily in line with reality.

"It's never been right and might still not be right. A program like ours will hopefully help to correct that," she said.

MacLean said their mission is to impart to students how critical personal development is to a successful career in technology and that it's as important as mastering the latest code language.

"It's about how to be someone who's not just building something, but someone who's developing something and truly bringing it from start to finish," said MacLean.

MacLean said HighTechU is a grassroots initiative that de-emphasizes students' socio-economic backgrounds while it looks to narrow the diversity gap in the technology sector. They do this by focusing on groups that are underrepresented in the industry, such as women, Indigenous youth and people of colour. …

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