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Published: January 26th, 2021

Amazon Canada is launching its Amazon Future Engineer program in Canada and investing $3 million over three years to fund existing Canadian charities.

The tech giant says it wants its funding to target children of all ages and help close fill a looming skills gap. According to the Information and Communications Technology Council, the Canadian digital economy will have a demand for 147,000 additional workers by 2022. However, new data from research firm Maru/Blue shows that 63 per cent of Canadian parents of elementary and high school students agree that children did not have the computer skills to succeed at virtual learning. 

Amazon Canada wants to fill this gap through its Amazon Future Engineer childhood-to-career program, which the company says will reach an anticipated one million Canadian students and teachers. In order to ensure that students of all ages across the country are able to be a part of the program, Amazon is partnering with Canadian charities, including Canada Learning Code, Kids Code Jeunesse, and TakingITGlobal. Amazon says it will fund those charities’ curated lesson plans, tutorials, online resources and workshops designed to inspire students from all backgrounds to pursue computer science.

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Elementary school students and teachers will be provided with free, in-class workshops organized by Canada Learning Code as part of the program. Lesson plans will focus on basic coding skills, including algorithms, sequences and debugging. Amazon Future Engineer already provides a variety of free, online educational activities open to all elementary school students, including interactive coding tutorials like the Cyber Robotics Challenge and the Hour of Code: Dance Party

“Amazon Future Engineer is dedicated to helping students develop their computer science skills throughout their educational journeys, from kindergarten to high school, while also funding in-demand professional development opportunities for teachers. Virtual learning has underscored the need for more students to have a strong computer science foundation, and we look forward to creating new opportunities to make that a reality,” said Susan Ibach, head of Amazon Future Engineer Canada in a Jan. 26 news release.

Middle and high school students and teachers will have access to workshops and materials that focus on artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and ethics, delivered in partnership with Kids Code Jeunesse. Amazon says this curriculum will guide students through the application of current AI technology, the framework for ethical AI, and the effect of AI systems on future careers and the work environment, with the aim of encouraging them to think about the intersection between their digital lives and in-person experiences.

Amazon will also support TakingITGlobal’s development of an online course and community for Canadian educators using the AP Computer Science principles curriculum. TakingITGlobal will also deliver the Your Voice is Power program in  Canada, which features a competition for students to remix Pharrell’s new song “Entrepreneur” using computer code on the learn-to-code-through-music platform, EarSketch, according to the announcement. 

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada