The old adage that students and educators have “all summer off” is a misnomer in today’s digital age, where both groups are choosing to skill up their talents through summer camps and continuing education opportunities.
Indianapolis-based Nextech, a nonprofit dedicated to creating equitable access to computer science curriculum and experiences for all K-12 Indiana students, provides that curriculum for both students and teachers this summer through three core programs.
It is the second year for Nextech’s Educator Externship, a five-day professional development program that immerses 24 computer science educators from 21 Indiana middle and high schools into the local tech industry. Each day, attendees will tour tech companies to meet with employers, gain first-hand knowledge about tech trends and skills requirements, and visualize computer-related job opportunities that could interest their students.
With the recent passing of Senate Bill 172, which requires public schools to offer computer science classes as an elective in high schools across the state of Indiana by 2021-22, programs like Nextech’s Externship become even more critical. Prior to the legislation passing, less than 30 percent of Indiana high schools offer computer science training, according to Nextech.
“CS teachers don’t always have the relevant industry experience needed to help students bridge classroom curriculum to real world applications,” says Karen Jung, executive director of Nextech. “There is no better resource to provide this context than spending time in Indy workplaces, engaging with the professionals who apply those skills every day.”
“The training received through the Externship is just indescribable,” says Vickie Houlihan, an educator who went through the Externship program last year. “The program is designed to walk you through mentality a tech company, learning how these companies work either through agile or waterfall to the mental aspect of design thinking with empathy. As an educator, for me to be able to share this experience with my students through anecdotal stories or classroom activities is just awesome.”
Companies and universities assisting as hosts or curriculum partners include Bluelock, Butler University, Carbonite, High Alpha, INPRS, KSM Consulting, OneAmerica, Pondurance and Salesforce.
The talent pipeline starts well before students are writing their resumes and applying to jobs, and Nextech’s Catapult program realizes this by working with students before they pick a college or career path.
Catapult is a 12-month immersive experience that combines industry relevant curriculum, work-based learning, career readiness, and civic leadership opportunities for junior and senior high school students.
On June 11, 24 students from nine Marion County high schools began a 6-week immersion program where they will participate in a coding boot camp facilitated by Kenzie Academy, visit local employers, and spend time exploring the campuses of local universities.
“Today’s young people are our future workforce,” said Chok Leang Ooi, CEO of Kenzie Academy. “We are thrilled to partner with Nextech to connect some of our brightest and most driven young Hoosiers with the technical skills that will help make them successful after high school graduation.”
Programs like this are just one of the many ways that Indiana is leading the conversation about highlighting tech jobs to all students, and finding ways to increase their opportunity to join the tech workforce in tech and business-skilled roles.
Originally founded in 2011 as part of the ExactTarget Foundation, Nextech became an official standalone organization on the Indiana/Indianapolis tech scene in 2015. The nonprofit plays a critical role in keeping computer science education at the forefront of discussion among leaders and policy makers in the state. For more information about Nextech’s programs and events, visit https://nextech.org.