Free coding classes aim to end minority employment gap - KMSP-TV

Free coding classes aim to end tech employment gap for minorities

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A youth program in West St. Paul has got a head start on what Google hopes to do -- close the minority employment gap in the tech world by teaching computer programming and other trade skills for free.

After some soul-searching, Google admitted it has a diversity problem. It's an industry-wide concern, and now, the tech-giant is offering free computer programming classes to women and minorities to close the gap. Now, a local Minnesota program is hoping that news will attract even more students to give the fast-growing tech industry a try.

Curiosity about the way that video games work made 16-year-old Xavier Storay an intriguing prospect for technology recruiters -- especially since he's an African American who is interested in learning code.

"I, personally, didn't hear about coding until about 3 years ago," he admitted.

When Google released its workforce numbers for the first time, the diversity data was sobering. White men make up the overwhelming majority, and minority employees are in the single digits. Only 30 percent of the web giant's staff are women, but of those, only 17 percent work in technology. In many ways, those numbers are a reflection of the industry as a whole.

Sarah Olson is one of few female programmers at the Nerdery, which is based in Bloomington, Minn. She says Google's efforts to offer free coding classes to women and minorities could mark a huge step in adding diversity to the growing industry.

"One of the big things companies can do is just say, 'Women are wanted here,'" she recommended.

At the Boys and Girls Club in West St. Paul, they've already got students starting to code at an early age. The hope is that students of color will see they could have a career in coding, and the education they offer gives to anyone represents a chance to compete for the jobs of the future.

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