ASX-listed logistics company WiseTech Global has pledged 1% of its annual pre-tax profit to tech education through Grok Academy as part of a five-year deal.
The deal, which kicks off with an FY22 contribution of more than $2.5 million, will see K-12 students enhance their digital skill in the hope the experience will encourage more of them into IT careers. WiseTech already backs Grok Academy’s outreach programs. including the annual National Computer Science School Challenge.
The funds will initially be used to make the Grok Academy online platform and classroom resources available for free to Australian students, teachers and parents, alongside plans to develop new digital tech and literacy teaching resources.
WiseTech Global CEO and founder Richard White said it was a fantastic opportunity help students learn valuable skills and understand the potential of a career in technology.
“Australia needs to build a strong pipeline of talented people to shape our technology future or we will lose this opportunity. Accessible education for all Australian school students starting early and creating curiosity and agile minds that make the world better through technology, will be a powerful long term driver of the economy and long term solution to the current technology skills shortage,” he said.
“By taking a deep, grass roots approach we want to ensure all students, regardless of gender, economic circumstance or geography, have a positive technology experience at an early age, inspiring more students to embark on further technology studies and careers. We’re passionate about this and we’re taking positive action by working with Grok Academy.”
With a predicted additional 653,000 tech workers needed in Australia by the end of the decade, White said early exposure to digital technology skills is critical.
“We know that what students experience in primary school and in the early high school years strongly influences what they elect to study later in high school,” he said.
It’s also the time to dispel social myths about what’s appropriate for girls to study, so that they don’t self-select out of technology subjects.”
The WiseTech boss added that while more girls than boys go on to tertiary study, 73% of students studying in the STEM field are male.
“Ultimately this means Australian businesses are missing out on a huge chunk of the potential talent pool of locally grown tech professionals,” White said.
“The technology sector, which includes tech jobs across a wide range of industries, provides amazing career opportunities. Not only does it offer better job security, flexibility and diversity, it also gives people the opportunity to use creative thinking to solve real-world problems and to create an important part of the future.”
Grok Academy CEO James Curran said teachers are being asked to teach skills many didn’t learn during their own schooling.
“Our aim is to help teachers by providing a range of classroom-ready online courses, competitions and activities that are all aligned to the Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies,” he said.
“Our programmes are designed to guide students to develop practical computational thinking skills and are developed by qualified classroom teachers with hands-on experience of the challenges facing many teachers today.”
Curran said WiseTech’s donation removes the barrier of cost to Grok programs so more kids from economically disadvantaged backgrounds can get access to them
“While we’re proud that approximately 25,000 students and teachers take part in Grok’s National Computer Science School Challenge each year, it’s just a small proportion of the total 4 million primary and secondary students in Australia. We can do more,” he said.
“It’s a fantastic initiative and we hope that many more schools and teachers across the nation will be able to make use of these tools to help their students consider IT careers.”
Federal Industry and Science Ed Husic Grok Academy is a real Australian success story and welcomed the WiseTech investment.
“It is vital Australia has the skills base for the jobs of the future. I can think of no better way to kick-start this than for all school kids having free access to one of the best online coding classrooms around,” he said.
“The Albanese Government wants Australia to hit 1.2 million tech-related jobs by 2030. To reach that target, we are going to need a lot of young Australians on board from an early age to build those skills and see the creative side that they can offer.