On October 8, 2014, Torusoft, in partnership with Junior Achievement Nova Scotia, launched the Nova Scotia Digital Bridge Scholarship. The Digital Bridge Scholarship started as an open proposal back in April; since then, we worked to find the right steward to bring it to fruition. We’re thrilled that it’s found such a welcoming home at Junior Achievement.

The Digital Bridge Scholarship addresses a troubling concern many of us in Nova Scotia share. In our province, we are not teaching computer science and programming skills to students in junior and senior high school. Consequently, they’re missing the opportunity to pick up a valuable skill set (that only becomes more valuable and in demand over time), and they’re largely panning opportunities to study computer science and programming in college or university.

Torusoft, like many other companies in our sector, is concerned that in the coming years, we will not be able to recruit from a local talent pool. Worse yet, we see a massive opportunity slipping through our collective fingers. It’s no secret that Nova Scotia’s economy is struggling. It’s also no secret that programming – building software and apps, is one of the few ways we, as a province, can create original wealth without a huge investment.

Here’s how the scholarship works:

  • The scholarship is funded entirely through the private sector and individuals across Nova Scotia
  • For $150, students receive 6 months of online learning through Code School and are paired with a mentor to guide their learning.
  • Students across Nova Scotia that show an interest in information and computing technology are nominated by teachers or Junior Achievement.
  • Donors can fund seats directly using the Digital Bridge Scholarship website.
  • Mentors can sign up via the Digital Bridge Scholarship website or through Junior Achievement or through local schools.
  • Mentors report back to Junior Achievement on the progress and success of each student in the scholarship program.  Students wanting to progress further will be nominated for a second 6 month scholarship to study more advanced topics and techniques.
  • Scholarship donations are 100% tax-deductible.

Here’s how you can help:

  • Donate online
  • Volunteer to become a mentor
  • Spread the word to students, family, friends, and colleagues
  • Promote the scholarship via Twitter and retweet posts from @janovascotia.
  • Promote the scholarship via Facebook
  • Promote the scholarship via LinkedIn

Like just about everybody I know working in IT today, we were exposed to advanced technologies and devices when we were young: Most of us before age 15. And like just about everybody I know working in IT, what we learned was almost entirely extra-curricular. If one of my teachers hadn’t singled me out as having an interest in technology when I was about 13, I doubt I’d be working in IT today. In fact, there’s no telling how I might have turned out since I was so bored by most of the subjects in school. Some readers will surely question just how well I turned out regardless :-P

The Digital Bridge Scholarship checks all the right boxes. It’s targeting the right students. It’s pulling together volunteers who WANT to help kids learn valuable skills. It’s extra-curricular, where students can learn something highly technical and abstract at their own pace. It’s available across the province – there’s no urban vs. rural divide. It’s scalable and can expand to schools all across Nova Scotia. And with all that in mind, there’s very little potential for waste. We’re not pretending that computer science is for everyone, but for those who are interested, we can’t afford to not give them the opportunity to learn.

I believe the Digital Bridge Scholarship will open doors for young people across this province looking at potential careers in IT. I also believe that with technology underpinning nearly every job I can think of, knowing how a computer works and how you can manipulate it at the lowest levels takes the magic out of it. This is important, because even if a student doesn’t choose to work in IT, understanding technology, just like understanding math, physics, chemistry, and biology, gives you a perspective on the world you just can’t have otherwise. Nova Scotia needs a generation of leaders who truly understand technology just as much as it needs more of our own graduating with computer science degrees and more of our own working in and starting IT businesses.

I hope you get involved and help any way you can.

Chris Marriott