Like many areas of the economy, job openings in computer science are projected to grow faster than the workforce. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates in just three years there will be 1.4 million computer science-related jobs, and only 400,000 qualified job candidates.
Southwest Initiative Foundation (SWIF) is invested in helping our kids and businesses succeed. We awarded a $10,000 multi-year grant to the STEM Innovation Center to develop new and enhanced curriculum for area schools and offer learning opportunities for students and adults in coding, drones, robotics and digital inclusion. The center, which is an educational collaboration between the RS Fiber Cooperative and University of Minnesota Extension 4-H, serves Renville and Sibley counties.
The Innovation Center’s excellent work has attracted another investment — by Google! The center has been selected to pilot a first-of-its-kind computer science (CS) collaboration that will teach kids technical skills, like coding, and essential skills they’ll need in the future, like teamwork and resilience. The program is a partnership between Google and 4-H to help students learn skills to approach problems in a fundamentally different way across every discipline from business to engineering to the arts.
“This is an exciting opportunity for the youth in our community. We’re proud to be one of the pilot locations for this collaboration between Google and 4-H,” said Lisa Burnette, 4-H STEM Program Coordinator at the STEM Innovation Center.
Minnesota is one of just 22 states in the pilot. Google.org has awarded a $1.5 million grant to equip community educators with new funding, curriculum, training, devices and the support of Google CS experts. The collaboration will include an effort to reach communities where youth traditionally have limited access to computers, internet or CS training. As with most 4 H programs, the effort will feature teen-led, peer-to-peer mentoring.
“It’s important for kids to develop a wide range of skills, like computer science skills, analytical thinking and creative problem solving, and our work with National 4 H Council will help ensure that kids across the country have access to a better future,” President of Google.org Jacquelline Fuller said in a press release.
Through the Google.com grant, virtual reality (VR) will enhance the Innovation Center’s Media Madness camps, offering area youth an opportunity to experience VR and create their own VR media. It will also serve as the foundation for a CS Afterschool Adventure where local middle school youth can explore the basics of computer functions and coding.
“Expanding skills training for our kids is one way we can close the opportunity gap and ensure all our kids are getting the best start in life,” said Nancy Fasching, Community Impact Director at SWIF. “Funding from a national company like Google is great recognition of the quality programs in our region.”
If you’d like to know more about the Innovation Center or participate in a 4-H STEM event, contact Lisa at [email protected] or (507)614-7836.