Code First: Girls to plug digital skills gap by teaching 20,000 women to code by 2020

Backed financially by KKR and OVH, campaign ambassadors for the free initiative include Martha Lane Fox and Tech UK president Jacqueline de Rojas

A new free initiative to teach 20,000 young women to code by 2020 has been launched to help plug the digital skills gap currently undermining UK productivity – and to ensure the UK tech sector becomes more gender diverse.

A sister company of Young Gun-founded accelerator Entrepreneur First, Code First: Girls will offer training support to employees from its partner companies, with the opportunity to train their young female staff as well as gift free coding courses on the partner’s behalf to young women at other charitable institutions.

Backed financially by KKR and OVH, campaign ambassadors for the free initiative include Martha Lane Fox and Tech UK president Jacqueline de Rojas.

In addition to the training, Code First: Girls is  also building a community platform to support the course alumnae which will enable the 20,000 young women to learn from and support each other; as well as permit the campaigns’ top tier partners access to a pool of 20,000 young women who have completed the coding course and are wanting to explore career opportunities in tech and digital.

Women are currently underrepresented in the U.K. tech sector – with their share having fallen from 33% in 2002 to 27% today.

According to the UK Office of National Statistics in 2017, looking at tech and telco professionals in the U.K., only 3.9% were female programmers and software developers, a number that has gone down from 10% in 2007.

And that looks to continue to be a challenge in the coming years.

With only 3,775 women registered by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service to take a consumer science degree in 2016 and the overall tech talent pipeline potentially further stressed under Brexit.

Amali de Alwis, CEO of Code First: Girls, said:

“We’re truly delighted to launch our 20K by 2020 programme.

“The initiative addresses a critical qualifications gap in the job market and has the potential to rapidly improve the UK economy in a significant way.

“In the UK, between 2011 and 2015, the number of digital tech jobs across the UK grew by 17%. That is more than twice the 8% growth seen in non-digital sectors.

“And with digital jobs paying 44% more than the national average, and 50% of the UK’s digital tech community highlighting a shortage of highly skilled employees, the need for tech and digital talent is massively exceeding the pool of qualified individuals entering the workforce.

“We think the first place to start addressing this gap is by training more young women to code.

“Our research shows that one of the biggest barriers to women entering the tech industry is education, and our 20:20 campaign is designed to address this by providing skills that are critical to the digital economy.

“Our campaign partners and the individuals who are supporting us via the crowdfund are not only helping us to bring some incredible young women into the tech and digital workforce, but also helps us to support growth to UK businesses with their talent needs through increasingly challenging times.”

Jacqueline De Rojas, president of Tech UK, said:

“Women are significantly underrepresented in the tech industry and we just can’t allow this situation to remain if we want build a diverse and innovative sector that can underpin our future economy.

“The Code First: Girls 2020 campaign is a vital ingredient in enabling the younger generation to feel empowered to choose from the hugely varied careers available in tech.

“Whenever I walk into a room where I can see girls coding to create and imagine new applications, I am truly inspired to keep working for a future powered by these exciting, bright minds.”