Code the Town

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If Mission wants to continue living up to its title as the fastest growing city in the United States, it needs to develop a workforce equipped with 21st century skills. In the past decade, computing has become the driving force behind a city’s innovation and job growth.  According to Code.org, there will be 1.4 million computing jobs by 2020 but only 400,000 workers trained in this field. The Code the Town initiative, created by the Mission Economic Development Corporation and the City Council, aims to put Mission at a whole different level by teaching its residents computer programming skills.

Although Mission has experienced a huge growth spurt in the recent years, it still lags behind when it comes to innovation and technology. Although the city is demographically very young, only a few college graduates possess degrees related to computing.  “When we talk with companies, we find that there is still a great need for people to fill technology-related positions, “ says Alex Meade, CEO of Mission Economic Development Corporation. “Increasing the number of computer programmers in the city will attract technology-based firms and startups to establish their business in Mission.”

The Code the Town program presents a great opportunity for Mission residents to not only learn to code, but to develop creative and critical thinking skills that are necessary for work in any field. The core principles of computer science are key knowledge even for jobs not related directly to computing skills. “Technology permeates our everyday lives at home and in business, says Mission EDC CEO, Alex Meade. “If we are to remain competitive, we must better understand the language and skills to master this technology. In the future, learning how to code will be as necessary as knowing how to read and write.”

Because coding will be such a necessary skill in the future, Mission EDC has partnered with Sylvan Learning to extend the initiative to elementary students. “We are a big supporter that 21st century skills need to be developed,” says Susan Valverde, Executive Director of Sylvan Learning in the Rio Grande Valley. “We partnered with Mission EDC because we want to be part of the solution. We want to teach our children other categories of skills that our students need to learn to be successful.”

Sylvan will offer two-week boot camps consisting of daily eight-hour sessions in which Mission elementary students will be the first to pilot their new STEM curriculum. Children will learn the foundations of algorithmic thinking, basic coding, how to build an app, and how to build a videogame in a fun and engaging way. The children will also have the opportunity to collaborate with other children on building a project that they will present during Computer Science Education Week on December 8 -14, 2014.

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