Kids and teens in the Gottingen Street area want their old school back.
Preparing Halifax teens for a high-tech futureBy Peter Moreira | Jun 29, 2012
Halifax Magazine contributor Peter Moreira shares this post on a unique project for teens in Halifax. (Peter volunteers with the program).
An old Chinese proverb that says something like: Give a teen a video game and occupy him for a day. Teach a teen to develop a video game and employ him for life.
Okay, maybe it’s not an old Chinese proverb, but it’s the successful philosophy that Rose Behar, Michael Johnston and Taylor Quinn have used in developing CompCamp, the technology summer camp for teens in Halifax.
The trio of Dalhousie University students understands the dynamics of the modern workplace in Nova Scotia. They know that there are digital technology jobs that go begging because there aren’t enough trained people to fill them. They know that young women are often intimidated by the tech world, which is seen as a male bastion, even though there are magnificent career opportunities in the field. And they know that too many members of their own generation are unable to find jobs once they graduate.
CompCamp helps to cure all these ills.
“We believe strongly that society will benefit from CompCamp because we are giving young people a head start in what’s probably the fastest-growing industry in the world,’’ said Behar. “CompCamp allows teens who are interested in technology to explore that interest in a productive way with similarly minded young people. This will help them to excel in high school and university, and very likely their career.’’
CompCamp is now accepting applications for four different full-day camps, each of which will be held at The Hub on Barrington Street. The size of each session is limited to 15 participants, aged 14 to 18 years old. The four programs are: Game Development 101, beginning July 9; Social Media Unmasked, beginning July 16; Hardware and Structure, beginning July 23; and Web Development and Design, beginning July 30.
The classes, developed after consultation with Dalhousie Computer faculty profs, will be conducted by the CompCamp staff, with industry mentors coming in to provide special insights into each of the programs.
What Behar, Johnston and Quinn are doing is taking a group of young people with a passing interest in some form of technology, and helping them to understand that this could be the basis of a rewarding career. No one will emerge as an expert. But they will understand the basics, which will help them pursue a career in technology—and hopefully become teach leaders in their peer groups.
There is a huge social benefit to this because there are dynamic technology companies in Atlantic Canada screaming for good talent. The digital technology industry is worth $1.5 billion in Nova Scotia, employing more people than farming, fishing, and forestry combined and growing faster than almost any other industry.
One of the biggest problems these companies face is finding good talent. Yet each year thousands of Nova Scotians leave the province because they can’t find work.
The digital technology industry understands the importance of CompCamp, which is why several tech leaders are providing scholarships for the camp, targeting young women who would otherwise not have the opportunity to attend the camp.
GoInstant, a Halifax software company led by Jevon MacDonald, will provide at least five scholarships. John Hamblin, President of Clarke IT Solutions Inc., will donate the Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship to a young woman. And DemoCamp Halifax, the forum for tech companies to demo their products at Dalhousie University on Sept. 23, will donate its surplus funds to future scholarships for CompCamp.
That’s right: future programs. Behar, Johnston and Quinn are hoping CompCamp will be successful enough that there will be more programs in the future – after school programs, more summer camps, eventually camps in other locations.
With a bit of luck, the camps this summer will be just the beginning of a significant feature in the tech landscape in Nova Scotia.