SAP Australia will work with children’s education charity The Smith Family to support disadvantaged students in participating in its Young ICT Explorers competition.
The initiative comes in response to gaps in access to technology and digital literacy amongst low social-economic status (SES) communities – skills which are only becoming more critical in the current economy.
Research from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows that only 68 per cent of children aged 5 to 14 in Australia’s most disadvantaged communities have access to the internet at home, compared with 91 per cent of students from the most advantaged communities.
2014 National Assessment Program ICT literacy data also showed that around seven in 10 students from high SES backgrounds attained or exceeded the proficiency standard, while only four in 10 students from low SES backgrounds reached the set standard.
The initiative was launched at SAP Australia’s Brisbane office, with Queensland Innovation Minister Leeanne Enoch speaking at the event.
“I am passionate about digital inclusion because it is important that all of our young people can be part of the knowledge economy in the future. SAP’s partnership with The Smith Family will ensure the Young ICT Explorers challenge reaches even more disadvantaged communities throughout Queensland and Australia,” Enoch said.
The partnership between the organisations will see The Smith Family facilitate and support its partner schools across Australia to participate in SAP’s Young ICT Explorers, with the goal of increasing representation of low SES schools in the competition to 50 per cent by 2020.
“There is a digital skills gap in Australia, and that gap matters,” said Max Roberts, state manager for Queensland and Northern Territory, SAP Australia. “Australian industry will require another 100,000 ICT workers if we are to meet the transformational demands of the digital economy and stay competitive.
“At the same time, Australia faces a looming youth unemployment crisis, particularly in disadvantaged communities. We – industry, government, not-for-profits and educators – need to reach out and engage early, often and meaningfully to inspire young Australians – not for the jobs of today, but for the digital careers of tomorrow. Through our deeper relationship with The Smith Family, we feel we can equip thousands of at-risk youth with the digital skills they need to succeed in our new economy.”
In 2016, Young ICT Explorers grew from 800 to 1600 student participants, with a record number of schools and projects registered.