As a technology company, we’re invested in making sure today’s youth have the skills they’ll need for the jobs of tomorrow. That’s the impetus behind CodeX, a program we launched last year to teach coding skills to youth aged 8 to 13. Developed in partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Maine, each day-long CodeX session brings kids to our South Portland headquarters where they learn some coding essentials and build their own apps.
To help participants continue their technology learning, we launched the Horizons program at a recent CodeX session. Horizons will provide a new Google Chromebook to anyone who continues his or her skill development after their CodeX session. All they need to do is spend 12 hours at school, home, or their local club creating five new apps, and then return to the next CodeX session to help teach coding to other kids.
“By offering the incentive of a Chromebook, we hope to challenge kids to keep learning and create a more enduring impact over time,” said WEXer Ryan Taylor, who developed the CodeX program. “We want kids to be excited about computer science and other technology-related fields because there are so many great job opportunities and the growth in this space is astronomical.”
The Horizons announcement capped off a day of coding for 25 youth and created a lot of buzz among participants who had already developed a finger painting app, an English/Spanish translator, and a space invaders game. Each Boys & Girls Club will have materials and online access available to help those who want to invest the time and energy to create five new apps. Kids also have the online resources of the MIT App Inventor program that provides tutorials to create dozens of different apps of varying degrees of complexity.
Taylor notes that WEX volunteers are a big piece of the program’s success, with WEXers from throughout the organization volunteering for each CodeX session to provide one-on-one support. There’s also time for fun, with participants breaking for a pizza and ice cream lunch and the chance to blow off steam through some outdoor activities.
In her address to our most recent session, WEX President and CEO Melissa Smith told the kids that “We are recruiting the best and brightest, and you’re learning something that’s not only cool, but also relevant to the world of work. When you’re old enough to be looking for a job, many of those positions are going to be highly technical in nature, and we want to make sure that you’re ready.”