The Ottawa Network for Education  (ONFE) today hosted an Apps Showcase to show off the accomplishments of high school students taking part in the TechU.me Mentor Program. The program’s industry and education partners – IBM, Adobe, and the four local school boards – were also on hand to announce new funding for the next phase of the program. TechU.me pairs elementary and high school students with industry mentors to develop mobile apps. In building these partnerships, TechU.me transforms student creativity into fundamental skills needed in the digital age – skills that will help these students succeed in their future careers.
To date, IBM has pledged $25,000/year over the next 3 years, while Adobe has once again signed on as the program’s official software sponsor, supplying its Creative Suite software to classrooms participating in TechU.me. The school boards are also providing funds to cover the costs of supply teaching and transportation associated with the program.
“We are excited to see the business community recognize the important role it can play in ensuring that students are acquiring the fundamental skills they need be successful in their careers,” said Kathryn McKinlay, ONFE’s president and CEO.
“Programs like TechU.me are integral to how we engage in and support the larger ecosystem in Ottawa,” explained Rob White, VP of Mergers and Acquisitions for IBM Business Analytics. “It’s how we can ensure that Ottawa continues to lead in innovations for the future and that the local economy has what it needs to realize its future growth potential.”
TechU.me was launched in 2012 with a contribution of $961,275 from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev). Since then, 2,000 students have participated in the app writing project. 12,000 more students had the chance to try basic coding as part of the school curriculum, using the free programming language Scratch.
“Even though we’ve expanded our reach significantly in the last 2 years,” reports Steve Evraire, the program’s Director, “we already have 7 schools on the waiting list, eager to get involved in the program. Support from our government, industry and education partners has been strong. However, we need new corporate and community partners to meet the growing demand for our programming.”
Additional funding would also allow TechU.me to:
- Continue expanding its Mentor Program, reaching 75% of local schools by 2017;
- Raise awareness of local labour market trends and the skills youth need to succeed;
- Create a Summer Academy program to help upskill Ottawa’s computer science and communications technology teachers.
Accomplishments since TechU.me’s launch in 2012 include:
- Increased enrollment in Computer Science and Communications Technology courses at participating schools by an average of 35%;
- Helped raise awareness of science and technology careers with 14,000 local students through its various programs;
- Paired 2,000 high school students with 29 mentors representing 20 area tech companies; and
- Expanded from four to 55 schools across all four school boards.