By JOSEPH PISANI
The Associated Press
NEW YORK — Amazon wants to get more kids thinking about becoming computer engineers.
The company launched a program Thursday that aims to teach more than 10 million students a year how to code. Amazon said it will pay for summer camps, teacher training and other initiatives to benefit kids and young adults from low-income families who might not have learned to code otherwise. It hopes the programs spur more black, Hispanic and female students to study computer science.
Amazon declined to put a price tag on the program, called Amazon Future Engineer, but said it will take up a big chunk of the $50 million that it committed to spend on computer science education last year.
Other corporations, including Microsoft and Facebook, have also committed cash to bring coding to schools, which could ultimately benefit the companies. There’s a shortage of computer engineers, and teaching students to code will ensure a pipeline of future talent to hire.
Jeff Wilke, Amazon’s chief executive of worldwide consumer, said he hopes some of the students who go through the Amazon Future Engineer program will work for the company, creating skills for its Alexa voice assistant or programming its delivery drones. But he said other companies are increasingly relying on technology, and coding has become a valuable skill to more employers.
“We’re pretty confident that knowing how to code will be as important as knowing how to read for the jobs of the future,” Wilke said.
Amazon Future Engineer will offer kids in kindergarten through eighth grade free summer camps and after-school programs that will take place in Amazon offices around the country. Amazon employees will volunteer, and online classes, lessons and games will be provided by Amazon’s partners, such as Code.org and Coding with Kids. The company also said it plans to pay for online training for teachers at 2,000 low-income high schools around the country to teach to teach introductory and college-level advance placement computer science classes. In addition, it will offer college students scholarships and internships. Schools, teachers and parents will be able to apply through AmazonFutureEngineer.com .
Amazon said some schools have been testing the program, including Monsignor Scanlan High School in New York. Science teacher Jennifer Tulipano began taking coding classes online in September and started teaching two computer science classes that month where the students learn how to create games and make animated characters dance. It’s the first time the school has offered computer science classes.
Tulipano said the school applied for the Amazon program because more students were getting feedback from colleges saying they needed some background in computer science.
“So much is now online,” Tulipano said. “It’s a skill set they need moving forward if they want to go into these fields.”