Let me start by saying that I’m a firm believer in positive disruption.
Education is a particular field of interest. It is the backbone of our society, an indicator of sustainability and a clear snapshot of the future. It is imperative that we continue to evolve and challenge future generations as the economic landscape shifts.
It is no surprise that things are changing at an exponential rate. A new technological revolution is creating drastic shifts in the way we communicate, the way we consume media and even the way we bank. Marc Andreessen explains it best by saying that “software is eating the world." In the next decade the amount of internet users will increase from two billion to six billion people. Andreessen even proposes that five billion people will have smartphones and thus immediate access to the full power of the internet. How are Canadians supposed to prepare for this change?
Don Tapscott mentions in a recent Globe and Mail article that the essential ingredient needed to tackle these challenges is education. During the industrial revolution the economy had to adjust, and public education was introduced to the masses to fuel an influx of new jobs. Farmers became empowered to pursue careers as line workers and the economy benefited. It was only decades ago that the computer generation wiped out many blue-collar jobs as it became more cost effective for businesses. Outsourcing followed as globalization made the world “smaller."
A wave is now upon us of new business models targeted at knowledge work, robotics and networked-inspired automation. Bill Gates reported that he’s working on robots that can pick crops better than humans. In the past few months, eight of the twelve companies that Google has acquired have “robotics” in their name or descriptions.
At first these appear to be negative illustrations of this technological advancement. It is easy to become overwhelmed with how quickly one must adjust to keep up to date. Know one thing, others are making changes.
As Sears closed up their flagship store in the world renowned Toronto Eaton Centre, Shopify, an Ottawa e-commerce software platform, became the first Canadian internet company to hit the $1 billion-milestone since the dot-com crash. They are currently hiring with the promise of all expected “technology sector perks”; catered lunches, full benefits, an activity allowance and share options. The most powerful example is Google. Founded in 1998, it was two Stanford college students looking for a more simple way to discover on this relatively new thing called the internet. Google is currently valued at $409-billion. For those willing to learn the skills of the 21st century, the world truly is yours for the taking.
MORE FROM JASON FIELD: Why We Would All Benefit from Learning Code
Progressive changes are being made to education around the world. Estonia, the birthplace of Skype, has a population of 1.3 million but it produces more startups per head than any other country in Europe. They made a proactive shift when they introduced a national initiative to teach youth from ages 7 to 19 how to code. A recent Forbes article indicates that “the idea wasn’t to start churning out app developers of the future, but people who have smarter relationships with technology, computers and the Web.”
In the United States, an initiative run by “code.org” is backed by celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Chris Bosh as well as the real rock stars of our generation; Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey. For computer science education week they successfully brought together over 27,000,000 beginners to write over 900,000,000 lines of code (yes, million!) around the world.
In Canada, contemporary education is disconnected with what is happening in both the physical space and the space that is dominating the world: the digital space. Disruption isn’t about to happen, it is already here.
Educational alternatives that are far more agile than their contemporary counterparts are popping up silently in metropolitan areas all over the world, even here in Canada. It has never been easier to retrain yourself, and very quickly.
BrainStation is located in downtown Toronto and emphasizes 12 week part-time web and mobile development education taught by industry professionals. Similar to Estonia, BrainStation not only aims to educate the best developers but also empower the masses to have smarter relationships with technology. Beyond their paid courses they host a free three-hour intro to coding workshop for complete beginners once a month open to the public. Bitmaker Labs in Toronto and Lighthouse Labs in Vancouver challenge the typical educational model even further with 9-12 week fully immersive programs that have achieved hiring percentages nearing 90%. Ladies Learning Code is a nonprofit organization based out of Toronto that makes technology education more accessible for women in cities from Victoria to Halifax with their complimentary workshops.
Code.org estimates that there will be 1,000,000 more computer science related jobs than students with the skills to fill those job by 2020. Consequently, we will begin to see many more alternative technology schools emerge. As a member of this positive disruptive shift, I welcome those eager to join this budding community and applaud those who are growing with us. As you build, we build. As you grow, we grow. Come hard and come fast, Canada needs you.