February 18, 2021 (Kelowna) – Last week, United Way Southern Interior BC, in conjunction with partners Accelerate Okanagan and Okanagan College, presented the first of the 2021 CODEanagan bootcamps, as part of an ongoing tech education program for local youth who may traditionally face barriers to accessing learning opportunities like this at no cost and with appropriate support. Supported by the RBC Future Launch Foundation and Coast Capital Savings Community Investment for Youth, the program was piloted in 2018 with extensive community partnerships including the Okanagan Boys & Girls Clubs and TELUS.

CODEanagan provides bootcamps and ongoing mentorship to inspire them to explore career opportunities in the tech sector. In 2020, the planned programs had to be postponed due to COVID-19 preventing the in person workshops, but the communications with youth and partners went on. The program content had to change to allow for reduced access to shared equipment and materials, but the outreach to youth could cover a wider geographical area once it switched to online content. It was decided to trial a full bootcamp over Zoom and see how youth responded and the results were overwhelmingly positive.

“At United Way, we are passionate about helping youth reach their potential & explore new opportunities,” says Jude Brunt, Manager of Events & Special Projects at United Way SIBC. “COVID-19 has affected our youth so enormously and, for many young people, fun learning opportunities like this are not readily available or encouraged, and certainly not without a cost prohibitive barrier. That’s where CODEanagan comes in. To watch youth make connections with each other and with potential mentors is priceless, even when we are operating virtually like this.”

“Influence Your World” taught the youth how to set up a WordPress website from scratch and to use it to share their passions and ideas via blogging to attract connections.  Two sessions ran last week with a group of enthusiastic youth completing the two x 3 hour workshops. Youth who enrolled were 12-21 years old and the age mix worked quite well online. They joined from Vernon, Kelowna, Penticton and the Kootenays.

Jessica Wicks, the instructor, used a mix of live instruction, videos and breakout rooms to pace the learning according to individual’s needs. The presence of Barrett, a volunteer coach/mentor from the tech industry, was invaluable, to monitor chat and jump into individual breakout rooms for one on one support to youth. He also was able to give all the participants an overview of tech career opportunities and generally encourage the youth to keep exploring ways of working with tech in their passions whether as a developer, designer or front end user.

Shown above (header and left): Youth from Vernon, Kelowna, Penticton and the Kootenays dig into 2 evenings of online learning and connecting….and still got to enjoy the pizza break together which is usually enjoyed as a part of the connection when learning in person.

“It’s wonderful to see local sponsors supporting programs like CODEanagan, where youth participants can learn valuable technical skills in a free, safe, and fun environment! Seeing these participants take this opportunity to interact, share ideas, and make connections has been wonderful, and I hope that I can continue to facilitate their exploration of technology in the future.” Barrett Sharpe, who works with QHR when not volunteering in the community.

All youth who participated ended up with their own WordPress site started and published, and the beginnings of their ideas for blogging to encourage traffic & engagement.

Just like in the previous in-person bootcamps, all participants received free pizza both nights via online codes generously donated by Papa Johns Pizza, and all received a Steam online Gift Card at the end in lieu of their usual in person completion award.

Shael Narayan, aged 17 from Oliver said “Thanks so much for the CODEanagan workshop opportunity. It was wonderful getting to learn from everyone. Once I get a few blogs up and refine the website I learned to build, I’m going to share it with everyone to increase exposure for my ideas.”

RBC Future Launch is a commitment to help young Canadians prepare for a drastically changing workforceRBC Future Launch focuses on three critical gaps: helping youth get work experience, helping youth grow their network, and helping youth gain new skills. More info at: https://www.rbc.com/dms/enterprise/futurelaunch/about.html

Coast Capital Savings Community Investments for Youth aims to help youth aged 13 to 29 achieve what is important in their lives and build a strong financial future. They invest in programs like CODEanagan that help young people build the foundation that will help them navigate life, achieve the education they need, prepare for the world of work and build their financial capabilities; all with a goal of contributing to a young person’s journey to becoming empowered and financially independent.

The next set of CODEanagan bootcamps is planned for Spring 2021. Watch the website for full details coming soon. www.codeanagan.com

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