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Why We Backed CS in Schools
Foundation Insight
21 Sep 2021
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Since our inception 16 years ago, we have been privileged to be an investor in some of the world’s best technology businesses, many of which started in Australia. We have worked closely with their boards, CEOs and management teams and have proudly helped to grow these businesses and play a role in their success. ROKT, Culture Amp and Tyro are a few examples in Australia.

Over this time, we have seen the growth of digital technology and the way it has revolutionised all aspects of business, from supply chain operations to business systems, employee capability, customer relationship management and data analytics.

We fundamentally believe our future success as a nation will depend on us continuing to grow, nurture and develop the next generation of technology businesses. These businesses will create jobs, maintain and grow our prosperity as a country and help solve some of our most pressing societal and environmental challenges.

A digitally-powered nation requires a highly-skilled digital workforce. In Australia though, we have a huge and growing problem – we are simply not developing the workforce we need. Not enough students are graduating with digitech skills from our schools and universities – it’s estimated there will be more than 100,000 new IT jobs in Australia by 2024, but there are currently only around 7,000 students graduating with IT degrees each year. How can we maintain let alone grow our technology capability with such a dramatic gap between these two numbers?

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Six years ago we established the TDM Foundation as a way of helping a small number of outstanding not-for-profit organisations with both capital and time to enable them to grow their impact. We partner with visionary Australian changemakers, who have some of the nation’s biggest problems in their sights.

For us at the TDM Foundation, this digital skills shortage is indeed one of these “biggest problems” and one we want to play a role in solving. We want Australians to have the opportunity to develop these skills and not be held back by gender, socio-economic or geographical barriers so that Australia can become a global digital powerhouse.

This is the “why” for us deciding to back CS in Schools and Hugh Williams. Hugh’s digital and technology background and experience are unparalleled in Australia. By any definition he is a digital and technology change maker.

Hugh has led global software technology teams both at Microsoft, Ebay and Google Maps. Hugh has now decided to focus his energy and efforts on giving back to the community and that’s how CS in Schools was born.

CS in Schools has a bold mission – “to build a stronger Australian economy by growing the digital workforce”. Its vision and focus are to grow the pipeline of IT professionals by providing an engaging DigiTech pathway for students, supported by world-class professional development for teachers.

Currently, CS in Schools is working with 9,000 junior secondary students in 42 schools around Australia. By 2025, it is planning to reach half of Australia’s 2,700 secondary schools and over 300,000 students.

This scale is unprecedented in the country and will be a critical ingredient in ensuring more students take digtech through to year 12 and beyond. If but a fraction of the students go on to graduate with digitech qualifications CS in Schools will have gone a long way to addressing Australia’s digital skills shortage.

Fundamental to solving this is CS in Schools’ belief that secondary school students are currently not being effectively engaged in digitech learning. Put simply, students don’t always understand what Computer Science is and why it’s relevant to their futures. Only adding to this problem, schools don’t always have the resources to devote to focused domain teaching. This is particularly the case in years 7 to 10 where dedicated teachers with deep expertise might not be available to teach these courses.

To help alleviate this and ensure both the students have the best learning experience possible and that teachers can deliver this, CS develops all the teaching materials as well as bringing industry experts into the classroom to help teach the class and work one-on-one with the students. By doing this, teachers really feel supported, while students have the huge benefit of gaining exposure to the latest digital skills and to see how to apply them in the real world.

The other huge issue facing our digitech workforce, is the current skew to it being heavily male dominated – it is estimated that this could be as high as 85% at present. This huge gender imbalance needs addressing now, and while it is no doubt on industry leaders to enable this, CS is attacking the problem from first principles – more girls need to be educated in digitech skills, and so CS at every point in time is prioritising their impact and delivery to high school girls. This year, more than half of the students learning to code in CS in Schools’ programmes are girls.

The risk of a digital enabled workforce is that those without access to high quality education will only fall further behind. The biggest impact CS in schools can have to ensure a future Australia is equitable, is to ensure its programs are delivered in regional and lower socio-economic catchment schools. This also reflects Hugh’s deeper personal experience and passion having grown up in Gippsland, Victoria, where students are currently more than twice as likely not to go to university than students in the rest of the state.

We believe the continued growth of the technology sector in Australia requires people such as Hugh to share their experience and wisdom with the next generation of Australians. We want students to be inspired, to see a career and pathway as they develop these skills and to know their skills are critical to who we are and want to be as country.

We are incredibly proud to support CS in Schools and cannot wait to help them grow and succeed.

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