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Dublin: 13 °C Wednesday 22 May, 2019
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Opinion: I’m 15 years old and I've set up my own company – here's why

We can’t continue to just lament the shortage of highly skilled IT graduates; we need to re-think the way digital skills are taught in the classroom.

Harry McCann

IT IS VITAL that young people in Irish schools are taught the digital skills that are needed in 21st century workplaces. We cannot continue to teach students computer basics once a week, ignoring all that coding and programming has to offer, and then lament the shortage of highly skilled IT graduates. The Irish education system must accept that technology is here to stay and the first step of accepting this is educating the next generation.

I’m 15 years old, I’ve just completed my Junior Certificate exams, and I’m the founder and MD of ‘Kid Tech’. Kid Tech provides courses and workshops in computer game development and design, web design, coding, programming and more. I became interested in coding when I was 12, when my older brother began his computer science degree. I started off teaching myself, with occasional help from my brother.

I decided to go to my local Coderdojo, a free coding club for young people, and discovered I actually knew more than I thought I did! I became a mentor, and my passion for teaching computer skills grew from there. Instead of teaching just two or three kids, however, I wanted to teach 20 or 30 at the same time, and so I started Kid Tech.

The importance coding, programming and web design

I’m really grateful that a number of high profile public figures and businesses have become involved and lent their support to the company. Viddyad have come on board to support us, Blackberry have sent us equipment and Norah Casey is now involved with us as a course advisor.

Since Kid Tech’s inception, what has really stood out to me is that schools and parents do not yet understand the importance of teaching kids coding, programming and web design. In just a year from now, 90% of career options in the EU will require a digital skill. In addition, there is an expected 25% increase in demand for high-level ICT skills in Ireland over the next five years.

There is some progress being made, however. Future Creators, a programme developed by the Digital Hub Development Agency (DHDA), funded by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, and run in collaboration with the National College of Art and Design (NCAD) is on the right path.

Future Creators is an afterschool programme, developed by the learning team at The Digital Hub. It targets secondary-school students like me, aged 13 to 16 from the Liberties area of Dublin and aims to encourage them to develop digital media skills and, ultimately, to pursue a career in digital media or technology.

People thought Mark Zuckerberg was crazy too

The Future Creators programme is the exact model that schools should be using – teaching digital media and technology skills in a fun and informal environment. It is crucial that Irish educators start integrating digital into the classroom, improving resources and infrastructure, and educating young people so they have the skills they need for third level education and the workplace.

When I first started thinking about my starting my own company, the majority of my peers would have thought I was crazy. Well, people thought Mark Zuckerberg was crazy wanting to connect the world online.

I would tell any young person hoping to have a career in digital media and technology that no idea is too big or too small, and don’t be afraid to push the boundaries and think a bit differently. Never give up if something doesn’t work for you at first, just try going about it another way.

Harry McCann will speak today in an event for the end-of-year showcase of Future Creators, a programme for 13-16 year olds in the Liberties area of Dublin which aims to help participants develop digital media and technology skills.

The initiative was developed by the Digital Hub Development Agency (DHDA), funded by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, and run in collaboration with the National College of Art and Design (NCAD).

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About the author:

Harry McCann

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