This article was originally posted on the Tech North website.
The tech skills gap in Liverpool, along with the rest of the UK, can be addressed by encouraging more girls into STEM. That’s the aim of Liverpool Girl Geeks, a community organisation that offers courses and events addressing the pipeline problem in technology at the level of secondary education.
The organisation’s free courses help teach girls the fundamentals of different aspects of the digital industries, such as web development, or coding with music. This makes the prospect of a career in tech much more exciting than lacklustre ICT curriculum classes.
Helping girls explore tech careers
Liverpool Girl Geeks has helped dozens of girls to consider a future career in tech. One of the ways it does this through a six-week bootcamp for girls aged 11-14, covering areas such as coding and game design. The most recent cohort was sponsored by PlayStation.
The organisation focuses on making the content of its courses exciting, current, and relevant to the interests of many girls. It fosters a sense of community, and inspires girls to choose careers they might not have been exposed to otherwise.
The bootcamp included a ‘tech tour,’ where the girls got to explore the digital industry by being taken to Shop Direct and PlayStation workspaces. This gave them an insight into real digital workplaces, and was their favourite part of the course.
“The graduation ceremony was really inspiring,” says Jo Morfee, Director of Liverpool Girl Geeks. “Some of the parents were crying because they were so proud of their daughters.”
Building girl geeks’ confidence
“We know that our courses really work to increase the confidence of our students,” says Morfee. “And we see the girls exchanging numbers with each other at the end of the academy, so it helps to build those vital communities.”
The next Liverpool Girl Geeks academy is due to begin in September 2017. It’s an introduction to maker culture, as well as a great opportunity for participants to learn how to use new tools to express their creativity.
Girls taking part will make cool stuff using the latest tech. The Academy will explore cutting-edge technology and physical making, ranging from digital fabrication such as 3D printing and laser cutting, through to e-textiles.
It will focus on using coding to link physical items or hardware to digital technologies, using technology such as Raspberry Pi and Arduino. Participants will be inspired by how this tech has already been used to solve some real-world problems.
How you can help
“We’d love to develop some teaching resources to share with other groups,” says Jo.
There are some other groups that have something in common with Liverpool Girl Geeks. For example, Code First: Girls offers free coding courses to university students and some paid courses to professionals. And Raspberry Jams teach children around the country how to program using Raspberry Pi.
But none are quite like Liverpool Girl Geeks, which focuses on catching girls at that critical age where they start to lose interest, and confidence in their ability, to work in STEM.
“We are looking for companies and individuals to support our programmes,” says Jo. “If you’re interested, get in touch with us through our website.” Its partners include FACT, PlayStation, Sky, and Co-op Digital.
The future of Liverpool Girl Geeks
“We want to stay true to our roots as Liverpool Girl Geeks,” says Jo. “But the ambition is of course to expand across the North West to help more girls into STEM. We’ve got some exciting plans to roll out soon, but we don’t want to give too much away now.”
Jo does give us a hint about what they might be planning. “By partnering with schools, we can continue to address the pipeline problem in tech on a wider scale.”
Other grassroots organisations can learn from the example of Liverpool Girl Geeks to foster the talent we need in the local community. By helping girls build and keep their confidence in STEM, we can tackle one of the industry’s most pressing challenges.
Image credit: Liverpool Girl Geeks Academy Students taken by Georgia Flynn
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