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From video games to health care, Nova Scotia is going digital

Posted by SaltWite on April 14, 2023 in Events, Here We Code, Alumni & Friends, Students
Here We Code is a network of schools, businesses and industry leaders working to bring more people into Nova Scotia’s digital economy. PHOTO CREDIT: Nick Pearce
Here We Code is a network of schools, businesses and industry leaders working to bring more people into Nova Scotia’s digital economy. PHOTO CREDIT: Nick Pearce

Spring brings growth. This year, that includes Nova Scotia’s tech sector. 

Throughout May, virtual and in-person events will highlight growth and opportunities in the province’s tech sector. The events are part of the second annual Here We Code Month, an initiative to spread the word about the growing need for digital education—and its benefits. 

The month-long series will kick off on the evening of May 1 with a free networking event at the Halifax Central Library, where people can learn more about the tech sector and meet with industry leaders. 

Spearheaded by Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Computer Science but provincial in scope, Here We Code is a network of Nova Scotia researchers, organizations and businesses working together to grow tech talent in the province. 

Among that network is Digital Nova Scotia (DNS), a non-profit that provides professional development and digital skills programs to help promote Nova Scotia’s evolving tech sector.

Since DNS launched in 1989, Nova Scotia’s information communications and technology sector has grown to a $2.5 billion industry—with no signs of slowing. 

“We’ve seen companies go from an idea to hiring hundreds of people, and seen global companies explore our province and then decide to call it home,” says Caitlin Patterson, the Director of Marketing and Communications at DNS. “Nova Scotia’s tech sector has so much to offer.”

As more digital-forward businesses start or move to Nova Scotia, the province will need more resources to educate students, re-skill workers and welcome new talent. Patterson points to initiatives like Here We Code as a way to reach new people and share how tech can help with everything from education to agriculture. 

“We have a supportive environment that celebrates our successes, isn’t afraid to think big, and values people,” says Patterson. “Here We Code really ties into that. It’s a movement that aligns with our goal of showcasing our thriving sector and uncovering some of the brilliant things happening here.”

During Here We Code Month, Dalhousie, DNS and other local organizations will join forces with national groups like Startup Canada to promote the importance of digital education for all Nova Scotians, with a primary focus on secondary and post-secondary students. 

Events include the Hackergal Hackathon for girls and non-binary learners in grades 6 to 9 and Cognizant’s Digital Leadership Academy for undergraduate and graduate students.

These events underscore the vital role early education plays in shaping the future of the tech industry.

Brian Shay is a teacher at J.L. Ilsley High School in Halifax and a program lead for the school’s Technology Advantage Program for students interested in pursuing careers in tech. 

The program began as a pilot initiative in 2019 through a partnership between the provincial government, Nova Scotia Community College and IBM. It lasts up to six years—from Grade 9 into community college—and students receive mentorship, job experience and a free two-year technology diploma from NSCC.

Students who complete the program are guaranteed an interview with IBM.

“Digital literacy is one of the most important things we can be doing right now in tech education because tech is everywhere,” says Shay. “It’s ingrained in about everything we do, whatever your career aspirations. The more skills you have to make that accessible, the more prepared you’re going to be.”

Shay says initiatives like Here We Code can help demystify the tech sector, which can sometimes be intimidating for students. As he sees it, these campaigns give young people an opportunity to start envisioning themselves in those roles.

“Seeing what Dal is trying to do with Here We Code, making tech more accessible to students, I think it fits nicely with Technology Advantage Program,” says Shay, pointing to the resources available for students interested in tech. 

Whether students are interested in developing video games, discovering new technology for agriculture or harnessing tech in the health-care sector, it’s becoming more likely that they can pursue those dreams in Nova Scotia. 

With Here We Code Month fast approaching, Patterson hopes people take a moment to attend an event or take time to learn about the industry and new companies calling Nova Scotia home. 

“Take the opportunity to learn more about this thriving sector,” implores Patterson of anyone with even a passing interest in tech. “Who knows—it might be for you!”

For more information on Here We Code Month and HWC’s work to develop and share digital programming in Nova Scotia, please visit herewecode.ca