The RIDICULOUS UK digital skills shortage!

Let’s be clear here; the demand for AI, programming and computing skills is soaring. Yet, the number of young people taking IT subjects at GCSE level has declined by a whopping 40% since 2015 in the UK. Think about that for a minute….

We have a skills SHORTAGE now. Yet in the future we are going to have LESS people to do the jobs we have today let alone satisfy the increased demand for digital jobs that will continue to increase year on year. That’s ridiculous! 

When we stand in front of a group of children and tell them they can program computer games, robots or make digital art and films for a living they go crazy! They love it. We’re not careers advisors but we do want to engage learners and show them a career pathway. 

We teach the ages we teach for a reason; we humanise and relate the computing opportunity whilst inspiring young people to a prosperous digital future. When our learners get to GCSE age we want them to demand their GCSE in computing!

Many employers believe that now more than ever, digital literacy is important for profitability.  However, young people are leaving education without sufficient digital skills and not all employers are able to provide on-the-job training.

This presents a problem, as The Learning & Work Institute reveal that 70% of young people expect employers to teach them digital skills.

Dr Neil Bentley-Gockmann, chief executive at WorldSkills UK, puts the shortage down to 4 main reasons:

  1. A lack of clearly defined job roles in certain fields
  2. A lack of understanding and guidance about potential career paths
  3. A lack of relatable role models
  4. A difficulty in making many technical professionals seem appealing to young people, especially young women

So, what now?

To put it simply, interest in digital subjects and skills is rapidly declining, whilst demand for talent is at an all-time high, especially during the pandemic which has proven the importance of digital skills for business.

More importantly, it has highlighted the uncertainty around where these skills should come from. Jam Coding was established in 2014 for exactly this reason.

We believe that children should learn digital skills from their early school years. We’re dedicated to helping young learners see the fun, rewarding opportunities that a digital career can provide.

If you’re a headteacher, teacher or parent and want to guide your child or children towards a bright digital future then we would love to hear from you. Jam Coding are working across the country directly with Primary Schools and communities to help deliver our goal: The next generation of Digital Citizens.

5 reasons why girls should get into coding

According to a global software developer survey done in 2020, a whopping 91.5% of developers are male. There’s a general myth that women and girls aren’t all that interested in technical subjects, which isn’t strictly true. Despite the gender imbalance in the world of tech, more and more young girls are becoming interested in learning to code.  

Do you think your child would enjoy learning how to code? In celebration of international women’s day, we take a look at the 5 reasons why girls should get into coding. 

1) Coding is accessible

Take it from us, learning how to code isn’t as difficult as it used to be. Thanks to the wealth of information now available online, as well as online courses and kid-friendly coding organisations like ours, the discipline has never been more accessible for new learners. 

2) Coding opens doors for lots of career options

From Web Developers, to Data Scientists, to Network Administrators, there are several career options for your child if they choose to go down the coding career path. Coders are in demand and that’s not going to change anytime soon! 

3) Coding presents a challenge 

When children first learn how to code, it’s almost like learning how to solve a fun puzzle. As their abilities and understanding grows, these puzzles become increasingly complex. Coding challenges the mind and develops problem-solving skills in ways that other disciplines don’t. 

Having delivered coding workshops in some schools for a number of years, we’ve seen first hand how children learn, overcome challenges then thrive.

4) Coding helps unleash your creativity 

Coding isn’t a boring collection of data- code creates and builds. Code has a goal and code can be whatever your child wants it to be. They just have to use their imagination! 

5) Coding needs girls

Females make 85% of online shopping decisions. How can businesses properly meet the demands of users without seeing their code from a woman’s perspective? With such a huge gender gap in the world of tech, it is clear that the feminine touch is seriously lacking. As Ernie K-Doe once said, here come the girls! 

At Jam Coding, our coaches are both male and female and we have an equal boy/girl take up on our workshops. We inspire young girls to embark on a digital future by working with them at the right ages.

Are you considering getting your child into coding? Connect with us on social media for helpful tips and expert advice or get in touch to book a workshop in your area.

What is coding? Our definition

If you type ‘what is coding?’ into Google, you’ll find thousands of options. We know because we’ve tried it. It’s funny that with so many options, the answer is pretty much the same. Coding is the process or activity of writing computer programs…

Jam Coding has been delivering computing workshops to children for over 7 years now, and whilst that definition is correct, ours is slightly different.

Coding is having the confidence to try something different and new. 

It’s a test of resilience. 

It’s critical thinking. 

It’s the ability to process information and think like a computer… 

To notice patterns and understand what they mean.

In our digital world, coding is a door to job opportunities. 

It’s communication. It’s storytelling in a universal language.

Coding is complexity. 

It’s a workout for the mind and memory that requires determination, focus and logic.

It’s learning new skills: typing, writing, maths…

It’s finding the solution to a problem or a loop hole to get around it.

It’s a celebration of collaboration and creativity. 

Coding is fun!

To us, coding is so much more than just writing computer programs. It’s a series of skills that children will benefit from in every aspect of life. Yet, only an estimated 0.5% of the world’s population has mastered it.

At Jam Coding, we understand just how important these skills will be to employers in the future job market, and see it as our duty to instil them into children from a young age. Our workshops are designed to do just that.

Programming is like poetry – A Valentine’s Day poem by Jam Coding

Programming is like poetry;

A sequence of code,

That creates an ode,

To a world of endless possibilities.

Like poetry, it takes practice,

To master the tactics,

Of algorithms and coding with love.

It can be difficult to grasp,

With intricacies so vast,

Like abstraction, selection and bugs.

But once you do,

Your worries will be few,

As you unleash your creativity.

You’ll find excitement in design,

Writing instructions and spending time,

On fun imaginative activities. 

If you dream not of being,

In show biz but instead seeking,

To be an architect in your own right…

Then join Jam Coding,

In our mission of moulding,

The digital citizens of our time.

7 tips for parents on Safer Internet Day

Gone are the days when children used the internet for one reason and one reason only: MSN. There was nothing better than logging in after a long day at school and chatting the night away to the same pals you’d spent the entire day with… 

Except researching your display name, of course, which had to use every character on the keyboard to make the cut, and downloading a library of emoji’s you’d soon come to regret.

Today, the internet is so much more than just a bit of after school fun. Children rely on it for education. It’s a treasure chest of information and a wonderful resource for learning.

Like most great things, however, the internet does have its downsides. Now that it’s more widely used, it’s important that children understand the dangers of the internet and how to use it responsibly. On Safer Internet Day, here are our tips for parents:

  1. Firstly, have an open conversation with your children about what threats are out there. It’s important they understand the reasons for your supervision. Let them ask questions and answer them as honestly as you can.
  2. Educate children about personal data, what concludes as personal data and why it should never be shared online. The same applies to usernames, passwords and any other information that may help cyber criminals access their accounts.
  3. Make sure they understand the seriousness of cyberbullying. The type of language they use must always be respectful and well mannered. Likewise, if your child experiences bullying online, they should come to you straight away.
  4. Teach children to think before they post online. Anything they post will remain on the internet indefinitely, even if they delete it.
  5. Never share personal images online, even with friends! Help them understand that, once an image has been shared, how it’s used is out of their control.
  6. Stranger danger is just as big of a threat online as it is in real life. If they receive messages or phone calls from anyone they don’t know, they must end the conversation immediately and tell an adult.
  7. Tell them why sharing fake news and misinformation is dangerous, and why they shouldn’t believe everything they read online!

In a world that’s becoming more and more digital, the best way to protect children is to educate them on the dangers of the internet and how best to handle them. 

Jam Coding has been delivering Digital Safety and Digital Citizen workshops to primary school children and their parents since 2014. We have ongoing funding to deliver these for free in certain geographical areas. If you are interested please contact us.

Do you have any other tips for safer internet usage? Join the conversation using #SaferInternetDay 

Jam Coding: The story behind the name

If you’ve ever a chosen a name, you’ll understand just how hard it is to settle on the right one.

That was the case for Roger, our director, when he named his camper van Viv. It was also the case when he put the name of his sourdough starter in the hands of his Instagram followers. 

There were plenty of suggestions: Clint Yeastwood, Wheatney Houston and a suspicious amount of Carole Baskin’s… but after much deliberation, he settled on Marilyn Mondough.

Unlike Marilyn and Viv, the inspiration behind Jam Coding came quite easily. Despite Roger’s love for food, it had nothing to do with everyone’s favourite fruity conserve. It was actually named after his uncle, Jim “Jam” Mason.

“Uncle Jim was a big influence in my life at a time when I didn’t know what to do. He taught me about the world of business and investing in people.”

A prominent Lancashire businessman and political figure, Jim left behind an incredible legacy of achievement when he passed away in 2009.

Early life & notable achievements 

At just 14, Jim left Bangor Street School, now a community centre, to work as a photographer for a newspaper. He then joined the RAF and trained as a pilot before flying Lancaster in Bomber Command during the Second World War.

Jim had a strong sense of social responsibility. Both he and his wife Frances were members of the Young Socialists and played an instrumental part in the selection of Barbara Castle as Blackburn’s MP.

An active member of the Labour Party since 1939, he served as leader of the Labour group on Lancashire County Council and chairman of the North West Labour Party. He was also Deputy Lieutenant of Lancashire County Palatine.

In 1982, Jim co-founded Lancashire Enterprises Ltd which was responsible for major training, regeneration and employment projects. It is said to have saved thousands of jobs for Lancashire and was a model for the country.

Fortunately, his work didn’t go unnoticed. In 1999, he was awarded a CBE for his services and the following year, he was named as one of the North West’s Businessmen of the Millennium!

Why Jam Coding?

Jim was an important figure in Roger’s life and a huge inspiration behind both Jam Coding’s name and ethos. 

It’s predicted that, in 10 years time, 9 out of 10 jobs will require digital skills.

Like Jim, we want to give back the community we love and the nation as a whole by investing in young people with a computing education that will one day be essential.

Plus, we think it’s a pretty cool name!

Surfing the Flow of 2021

So 2020. That was a strange one! Jam Coding entered the new year with the same goals as the last. To reach as many children as possible and deliver vital life skills to the next generation of digital citizens. 

We have adapted and extended our services to meet an ever-growing market and need. Our virtual classroom initiative, which we launched last spring, remains as popular going into 2021. This service includes laptop hire, a virtual code coach and various cross-curricular lessons and activities that children can complete from home. 

Even though schools are closed for most pupils, children of key workers are still in attendance and teachers are working hard to educate both those in the classroom and those at home. 

Our code coaches are working in more schools to help with the delivery of the computing curriculum and allow teachers the time to catch-up pupils that may be behind from Lockdown 1.0 and 2.0. All whilst they deliver the rest of the curriculum. Teachers are heroes.

The continued closure of schools across the country has only highlighted the importance of technology and the need for services like ours. That’s why, just weeks into the new year, we launched our very first Online Coding Club.

The club will be delivered in weekly group sessions that cater for all year groups and abilities. Led by a live code coach, children aged 4 to 11 can join in via Zoom and learn to build their own computer game and complete other coding challenges.

All our clubs are educational, interactive and fun and the online sessions will be no different. 

The pandemic has presented challenge after challenge, but we’re proud to be riding the tides, surfing the flow and finding new and innovative ways to do more of what we do. Where there’s a WiFi connection, there’s a way! In fact, scrap that, we don’t even need a Wi-Fi connection sometimes. 

Our achievements in 2020 and plans for the future

Another year has come to a close and, despite the challenges, Jam Coding is delighted to be ending it on a high. This year has proven that with every challenge comes the opportunity to innovate and grow. 

In March, the closure of schools and other lockdown restrictions inspired us to launch Jam Academy, a virtual classroom initiative that would allow children to continue their education whilst schools were closed. 

We did this by delivering and loaning laptops, fully equipped with a range of cross-curricular workshops. Each workshop contained tasks, challenges and lessons for children to complete then submit back to the group. Our code coaches even recorded detailed explanatory videos to ensure the children were fully engaged with the programme. 

Having supported the learning of 62 children across the county, the initiative was a huge success. One parent commented, “The Jam Coding workshops, and the new service Jam Academy is excellent. Our 10-year-old daughter is absolutely loving the content and using the technology to do some of her homework whilst home-schooling.” 

By the time September came round, we were back at school, supporting teachers in the delivery of PPA and CPD, as well as general cover. We even conducted some lessons via Zoom (where schools were not permitted to welcome visitors) so that entire classes could take part and benefit.  

Jam Coding is based in Lancashire, but we believe that all children should have access to our digital / life skills workshops. This year we were delighted to welcome 5 new franchise partners on board who will help us deliver computing education to children across the nation! 

To top of it off, we recently became finalists in the QFA’s Virtual Franchising Awards which celebrates innovation, achievement, and excellence within the franchising sector. The winners will be revealed on 29th January 2021 – keep your eyes peeled! 

What’s next for Jam Coding? 

Another year has passed but our vision remains clear. We want to reach as many children as possible and deliver life skills to the next generation of digital citizens.  

Jam Coding has an exciting year ahead with plans to further grow our franchise network and deliver workshops to new schools who have booked in with us for 2021! 

We will also be releasing some new fun and engaging extracurricular workshops to grow the digital knowledge of the children we teach. 

50 mile-ultra trail run for local charity

By Roger Grogan. Director of Jam Coding.

What do you do when you have a business that works in Primary Schools and Primary Schools are essentially shut?

It wasn’t a question that I was expecting to ask myself in 2020 but it was a situation that happened, and has affected us all. Obviously, during Lockdown, it has been a great opportunity to develop some new workshops and plans for the future of the business. It has also provided a further opportunity….

I have always been passionate about the local area and have networked with businesses in the Ribble Valley and across Lancashire for some time. As a part of this, I was introduced to the brilliant Lancashire Women’s charity. This charity has 3 centres across the region and support people with mental health, domestic abuse and financial support amongst other important areas. As we all know these services have been needed in Lockdown more than ever before. The rise in Domestic Abuse and Mental Health over the past 3 months has sadly been unprecedented. The tragic thing is the charity has suffered a serious downturn in sponsorship and fundraising due to the pandemic.

Running has always been important to me for both physical and mental well-being. During lockdown I found myself doing more and more miles to maintain this balance. As ‘Lockdown Lite’ was introduced I found myself running with friends. We had an idea. To run a 50-mile Ultra Marathon to help the Women’s Centre.

Our aim is simple; to ask for donations and raise as much money as we can. None of us has ever run this kind of distance before. It is going to be a real test but we are adamant we are going to help this brilliant local charity. If you can donate it would be much appreciated. If you cannot then please share our cause so we can reach as many people as possible.

Please visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/lancswomenultra if you are able to sponsor.

Thank you for reading. The Jam Coding team and I look forward to seeing you all in a school or classroom soon!

Read more about the adventure in our Lancashire Evening Post write-up here.

Jam Coding’s Guide to Instagram

Although you have to be thirteen to have an Instagram account, we are that this is not the case and that many primary aged children are in fact on Instagram.

Instagram has a reputation for having a strong influencer culture who flood Instagram with filtered selfies and food-pics. Unfortunately, this “doctored” representation of reality is having serious consequence to the mental health of some impressionable youngsters.

Nevertheless, children are going to use Instagram so it is important that they use it in a safe way!

Download our ‘Guide to Instagram’ to learn about Instagram and help your child understand how to use the platform responsibly.

Used safely, Instagram is an excellent creative outlet for a child to showcase their passions. This is particularly true if they have an interest in photography, as Instagram is most notably a visual platform.

Social media can be a great thing. A budding artist can post their creations. The next Mary Berry or Jamie Oliver can post their bakes and recipes!

So download our guide and talk with your child about they can get the most out of Instagram!

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