The Bright Side of Business: Code Youth receives funding to empower at-risk youth with tech-sector training

Coding
Editor's Note

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The Bright Side of Business bimonthly column is presented by Star Motors

An Ottawa not-for-profit is helping at-risk youth land jobs in the city’s booming tech sector by tackling barriers to education and employment through its programming. 

Mona Forrest founded Code Youth in 2017 after many years of being a foster mom to teenagers. 

“Her idea was to do something for the youth community – all those children who are actually quite brilliant, (but are) stuck in a system that didn't work for them,” explains Code Youth executive director Giselle Leduc.

Aimed at young people between 17 and 24 years of age, Code Youth offers 12 weeks of training for 30 hours a week, providing participants with financial support equivalent to minimum wage for attending. Groups of six to seven students meet online with instructors to learn HTML, CSS, JavaScript and more as well as soft skills such as career planning.

In March, Code Youth received $951,000 from Employment and Social Development Canada to run its program for three years. With this funding, Leduc says, Code Youth can support 72 students.

“The idea is to help them become at least front-end developers,” she says. “Coding is behind every single thing that's out there, and now with COVID, organizations are realizing that they have to continue offering online services.”

Code Youth meeting
Code Youth team meeting.

Tech companies get on board 

Code Youth partners with several IT companies in Ottawa and beyond, with tech professionals hosting workshops as well as providing mentorship and one-on-one coaching for youth. 

“The tech industry is such a wonderful industry to be in,” Leduc says. “The people are so kind, and they really do want to give back.” 

One of those companies is Rebel.com, an Ottawa tech firm that provides domain names and web-hosting services. 

“(Rebel.com CTO) Brett Tackaberry has been amazing,” Leduc says. “He's actually providing us with domain names for the youth free of charge.”

Other partners include Shopify, Nokia, Home Depot and Innovapost, which provides IT services for Canada Post and its subsidiaries. Code Youth also works with Black Professionals in Tech Network, a program that aims to boost the number of Black IT experts and other professionals in the industry. 

A bold vision

Leduc says Code Youth’s partnerships are beneficial not just for students, but also for the companies themselves. In addition to helping a great cause, the program also lays the groundwork for the next generation of IT professionals, growing the pipeline of skilled talent for the future. 

With its new funding, Leduc hopes that Code Youth can go on to support more than 72 aspiring tech workers over the next three years. She also wants to see the program partner with companies interested in using the organization as a training hub for future employees.

“Generation Z has a very different way of thinking, and it's important to have all generations sitting at the table to develop a different future,” Leduc says. 

The Bright Side of Business is an editorial feature focused on sharing positive stories of business success.

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