Pact for IT: digital skills for the working world of tomorrow

Programming an app, digital production methods or the use of virtual reality: In the Pact for Computer Science, companies and schools work together in a practical way outside of the classroom to teach schoolchildren the basic knowledge of algorithms and programming (NRW Media Competence Framework, Pillar 6). A total of five pilot projects are currently being implemented in NRW, all in cooperation with zdi networks. What are the various projects planning in Kamp-Lintfort, Cologne, South Westphalia, Bottrop/Oberhausen and Gütersloh and what has already been achieved since the project started in summer 2020? An overview.

The fact that there is a shortage of around 86.000 IT specialists in NRW, both in business and in science, schools and administration, is one reason why the Minister for Education, Yvonne Gebauer, and the Minister for Economic Affairs and Digital, Prof. Dr. Andreas Pinkwart brought the Pact for Informatics into being. Minister Gebauer put it this way: "The aim of the state government is that in the future no pupil will leave school without basic knowledge of IT and basic knowledge of programming." That is why computer science will be introduced as a compulsory subject for grades 5 and 6 from the coming school year. Outside of school, the Pact for Computer Science flanks these activities. Minister Pinkwart explains: "In the future we would like to involve many more companies and schools in order to arouse the interest of young people and to attract the skilled workers of tomorrow."

Imparting specialist knowledge to young people, arousing their interest in IT and preparing them for the working world of tomorrow – all of this is to be tested in the five pilot projects with different approaches.

Five projects - five different approaches

Although they are all pursuing the same goal and have the same general conditions in the form of two-year funding totaling EUR 500.000, the pilot projects in Kamp-Lintfort, Cologne, Bottrop/Oberhausen, Gütersloh and South Westphalia are designed very differently.

Kamp-Lintfort: FabStore – online exchange for open source products

In this long-term project, companies, schools and young people are to be brought together on an online platform that offers open-source products for replication. "We are amazed at how much we have already achieved despite the adverse conditions," says project manager Martin Kreymann. Numerous formats have already been offered and tested: student workshops with the participation of the company partners simac electronics GmbH and PTC, teacher training courses and exchange rounds - all of this has already shown how great the interest of the economy, but also of young people, is in working together is. "If we actually achieve an active exchange of students, teachers, companies in an online exchange, then the project would be a complete success," says Kreymann. He sees many advantages and links to other state projects in the project: the planned courses would fit into the media competence framework - and purchases of devices could be requested via the digital pact for schools.

Contact: Martin Kreymann, phone: 02842-90825271

Cologne: DigiGeeksCGN

In this project, the zdi center in Cologne is expanding the existing partner network in the MINT area in the direction of computer science and intensifying the active exchange between regional schools, business (especially startups and SMEs) and science in Cologne. Together, extra-curricular "Digi" offers and formats (online, face-to-face, blended learning) are to be developed and implemented in order to realistically promote the skills of students in the field of "programming and algorithms" and to impart digital know-how . In the project, young people learn the principles of software development using different programming languages: The schoolchildren solve tasks with a self-programmed robot, design and program a chat app in a team to prevent loneliness in Corona times or program their own virtual reality application. Experts from the IT industry volunteer to give insights into their day-to-day work and work with the young people to develop practical solutions to specific issues.

Contact: Simone Rehage, phone: 0211-990829-222

Bottrop/Oberhausen: Digital4u – find your dream job!

Digital4u awakens the enthusiasm of young people for the digitized world of work through practical hands-on offers. In cooperation with experts from the economy, the young people get insights into different fields of application such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, energy informatics or software development via apps, programmable robots or microcontrollers. "Practical examples are used as a vehicle to arouse interest in learning programming and to contribute to a more intensive study of computer science," says Prof. Dr. Uwe Handmann, head of the computer science institute at the Ruhr West University and scientific head of the zdi centers in Bottrop & Oberhausen. In one project, for example, the students use a block programming language to program patterns that are then transferred to an embroidery machine and embroidered. Websites are also programmed and Java beginner and advanced courses are offered. "Pupils should understand the systematics behind the coding and develop an understanding of how a computer thinks, speaks and works and thus build up digitization competence." Companies and schools in the region are cordially invited to take part.

Contact: Insa Larson, Tel. 0208-88254163; Katharina Schwermer, Tel. 0208-88254890

Gütersloh: Demand-oriented development of offers

In the district of Gütersloh, the integration of young people and companies is the focus of the development of offers. "There isn't a predefined project kit yet, but we develop needs-based measures with the schools and companies," says Miriam Kröger. “We want to play with different target groups of students. Beginning with class 5, which will have computer science as a compulsory subject from the summer, through the compulsory electives to upper school.” Ultimately, the courses that are best accepted should be continued and established in the long term. "Our greatest challenge at the moment is to develop online or hybrid formats." Involving the local school labs, existing cooperation companies, but also new learning locations such as libraries, new formats and offers are to be created and tried-and-tested rolled out. Due to the open approach in terms of content, (almost) any company can be considered as a partner: be it large companies, small IT stalls or people who are simply interested in IT themselves - everyone is welcome. It is important to Kröger that the formats are established over the long term. Therefore, she is already thinking beyond the project phase and is looking for funding opportunities, develops close to the core curricula and tries to employ young people as IT lecturers today to support them in their own professional orientation. In this way, the project may even succeed in counteracting the shortage of teachers.

Contact: Miriam Kröger, Tel. 05241-851085

South Westphalia: MI(N)T IT into the future – Digital for SWF

"In our project, extracurricular digital basics are to be conveyed using practice-oriented, industry-related application examples and practical fields of application in everyday business are to be explored," explains Kerstin Thiel. Together with teachers, IT experts from companies and the South Westphalia University of Applied Sciences, she is currently developing learning opportunities that can be attended from the 2021/22 school year in the extracurricular learning locations in the region, the South Westphalia Technology Center in Lüdenscheid and the new Technology Center in Hagen. The face-to-face events are supplemented by digital and hybrid formats. For example, students build a CO2 traffic light and program a mobile app, which is then used to evaluate the data. "We conducted a digital survey to ensure that the learning opportunities were developed as precisely as possible to the requirements of the region. It was recorded which digital skills students bring with them and what companies expect from their potential young professionals.” Existing gaps in the area of ​​programming knowledge, an understanding of digital company processes, but also basic knowledge in the area of ​​IT fundamentals will be closed by the offers that are still to be developed.

Contact: Kerstin Thiel, phone: 0162-211 1455

Background: The national partners

In the Pact for Information Technology, the Ministry of Education and Economics work together with the IHK NRW,, the industry association Bitkom and the state initiative Future through Innovation (zdi.NRW) under the leadership of the Ministry of Culture and Science NRW to ensure that children and young people from secondary level I learn to program and solve problems with the help of algorithms. The basis of the extra-curricular educational measure are elements of basic IT education in accordance with the NRW media competence framework of the Ministry of Education.

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