Vodafone helps empower the next generation of tech leaders

Delivering specialised STEM training to female high school students

Vodafone has teamed up with Australian technology educator, Coder Academy, to deliver a tailored, technology-centric course, Code Next, to Year 9 and 10 girls in select Sydney high schools.

Coder Academy aims to inspire females to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Vodafone’s support of the Code Next program follows a recent inquiry by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training which found that participation in STEM subjects in Australian schools is declining. Enrolments in these subjects is at its lowest level in 20 years¹, with particularly low levels of participation in STEM education and employment by Australian girls and women.

Vodafone’s Director of Human Resources, Vanessa Hicks, said support for programs such as Code Next is vital to ensure young women feel empowered to reach their potential.

“We are very proud to support the Code Next Program and give young women a strong, supportive platform to explore opportunities within STEM disciplines,” she said.

“There is an alarming rate of young women avoiding studying STEM subjects in school, and subsequently not pursuing careers in these areas, because there is a lack of understanding about job prospects and roles for women in male dominated STEM fields.

“Code Next is a great way to bridge the knowledge gap and let young women see the countless ways STEM skills can be applied, so they can make an informed decision about the future of their career.”

In its inaugural year, about 60 students from Chatswood High School, Mosman High School and North Sydney Girls High School are taking part in Code Next. Students are taught the fundamentals of coding and design including HTML + CSS – learning how to build and style a static website, and Ruby – a programming language to stimulate computational thinking.

Students then have the opportunity to put their new skills into practice. Working in teams, they are tasked with identifying an issue and applying what they have learnt to build an app that addresses and solves the problem.

During the program, students from each school are supported by two female Vodafone mentors in different STEM-related roles ranging from strategy to technology security to social media management. The mentors demonstrate the opportunities for women and the variety of ways STEM skills can be applied across a range of vastly different careers.

Coder Academy’s General Manager, Sally Browner, said the Code Next program has been specially designed with young women in mind and is centred on challenging, engaging and encouraging students’ creativity.

“Girls need to be able to experience what the modern workplace feels like, the plethora of careers in STEM available to them and to meet people who they aspire to become,” she said.

“I meet students from all types of schools and the most effective programs are those that build their confidence to solve problems with technology as well as showing them how those skills can be applied in the workplace”

Ms Hicks said programs such as Code Next are the key to driving up the number of women in STEM fields.

“There have long been conversations about the need to encourage more women to get involved with STEM and Code Next is a great example of turning talk into action. We believe that introducing students to STEM while they’re young, aligning them with successful, professional women, and demonstrating the multitude of career opportunities at their fingertips is critical to increasing the amount of women in STEM industries,” she said.

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Notes to editor

1: Innovation and creativity Inquiry into innovation and creativity: workforce for the new economy House of Representatives Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training, May 2017