The free, bilingual Coding Jam Sessions taking place Wednesday in Brooklyn, New York and nine other cities aim to address what Hispanic Heritage Foundation (HHF) president Antonio Tijerino called one of the country's most pressing issues - the need for technology workers. "Coding should be taught in middle school and high school, yet nine out of ten schools don't teach it - it's a crisis of a skills gap," he said.
Several years ago HHF teamed up with Google to tackle the issue by "working backward," as Tijerino said. Working with non-profits like Practice Makes Perfect, the Coding Jam Sessions go to schools and train students - as well as teachers - on coding. Teens also learn about careers from Latino and African American computer experts and execs. The program dispels the notion that all coders have to be good at math. "Coding taps into another area," said Tijerino.
The program, part of HHF's LOFT (Leaders On Fast Track) initiative, has helped students garner internships, access to college courses, and some students have created apps and video games.
"Corporate America is desperate for talent, and 1 in 4 students in our schools are Latino," said Tijerino, who plans to expand the middle and high school Jam Sessions to elementary school.