Sun | May 29, 2022

Amber Group to invest J$150m yearly to fund Coding in Schools’ Programme

Published:Monday | November 22, 2021 | 12:08 AM
Michael McNaughton, managing director of Amber Group.
Michael McNaughton, managing director of Amber Group.
Richard Wilson demonstrates how to code for (from left) Minister of Education, Youth and Information Fayval Williams; Kay-Marie Forbes-Robotham, director, Strategic Partnerships Research and Innovation of HEART Trust/NTA; Andrew Pairman, CEO of Anbell Grou
Richard Wilson demonstrates how to code for (from left) Minister of Education, Youth and Information Fayval Williams; Kay-Marie Forbes-Robotham, director, Strategic Partnerships Research and Innovation of HEART Trust/NTA; Andrew Pairman, CEO of Anbell Group of Companies; Nadeen Matthews Blair, CEO of NCB Foundation and chief digital and marketing officer of NCB; Dushyant Savadia, founder and CEO of Amber Group; and Colonel Martin Rickman, national coordinator of HOPE. The occasion was the official handing over of $18 million by NCB Foundation to support the Amber HEART Academy and the Ministry of Education’s Coding in Schools Pilot Programme at Stony Hill HEART Academy in April of this year.
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Students are set to benefit from technology training as the Amber Group and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information (MOEYI) prepares to roll out the national coding curriculum.

The announcement was made last Friday at an official launch of the programme by Minister of Education, Youth and Information Fayval Williams.

This curriculum roll-out follows the three-month Coding in Schools’ pilot programme between April and June this year. The programme engaged 2,000 grades four and nine students in 20 schools across the island, who were taught the fundamentals of coding by Amber Group’s master coders.

“Amber has spent a year developing this intensive coding curriculum in consultation with the MOEYI and other international subject matter experts. Our post-programme assessment confirmed that more than 85 per cent of students who participated, found the pilot programme to be highly informative and helpful in building their coding knowledge. The students enjoyed working on basic concepts of coding which improved their creativity and problem-solving skills, and helped them to think more critically,” said Michael McNaughton, managing director of the Amber Group, in his address at the launch event.

In his keynote address, Prime Minister Andrew Holness thanked the Amber Group for its efforts in supporting the MOEYI’s thrust for greater technological instruction, while also enhancing its capacity.

NEW AND EMERGING JOBS

The prime minister also stressed the importance to prepare students for new and emerging jobs, and to transform Jamaica into a digital society. “As a country, we must accelerate our investment in the markets of the jobs of tomorrow, to get our fair share of these new digital economy jobs.”

“More and more aspects of our every day lives are becoming automated. As this happens the supply gap for persons with technological skills will continue to grow. It is estimated that 10 million jobs will be unfilled in the next decade, because workers do not have the necessary skills, particularly in coding… The more of those skills we develop, the quicker we are able to move into a digital society,” he added.

Students will begin learning to code early next year, while teachers will be engaged in the “train the trainer” project by the Amber Group.

Through this project, thousands of grades one to nine teachers across the island will be able to deliver lessons in coding. Participating teachers will have access to manuals, syllabuses, and access to a Live Support Desk from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. This support desk can be accessed during instruction in classrooms, with additional support sessions outside of teaching hours.

For year one of the programme, Digicel Jamaica has partnered with the Amber Group to provide cash support of approximately J$27 million. Digicel has also announced to provide paid internships to the country’s top students at the end of the school year.

Students in grades 10 to 13 will be engaged in two-hour sessions each week with Amber Group’s master coders, learning advanced computer languages. To support their formal instructions, they will have access to interactive e-learning applications to practise their new skills.

Upon completion of grades 11 and 13, the students will receive NCTVET certificates through HEART/NSTA Trust, and will have a fast-track access to the Amber HEART Academy.

CLOSE THE GAP

The education minister in her remarks, said that the collaboration with the Amber Group and Digicel has allowed the Government to begin to close that gap and to achieve a much higher level of employment, productivity and prosperity from improving technical competences.

“We recognise, as have most educational administrations across the world, that rapid technological advancements are changing the way we live, work and play. As such, we have a responsibility to prepare our students for an increasingly complex, interconnected and tech-driven world. We are seeking to build on existing efforts to help them to be agile and ready for contemporary and emerging jobs, regardless of their backgrounds and starting points in life,” she said.

“The launch of Amber-MOEYI Coding in Schools Programme is timely to the technology revolution happening globally. Learning to code will not only provide our students with a new skill, but will allow them to learn critical thinking, problem-solving, and develop confidence. This investment from Amber and our partner Digicel will be felt for generations to come,” McNaughton said.