Summer camp ignites high school students' passion for tech

Summer camp ignites high school students

By 2030, the Australian tech workforce is expected to experience a shortfall of more than 186,000 workers, highlighting the importance of upskilling in this critical area.

These findings, contained in a report commissioned by the Tech Council of Australia and Accenture in 2022, also found that addressing this shortfall in the same timeframe will contribute around $36bn annually to Australia’s GDP.

Recognising the importance of equipping young people with critical digital skills, Grok Academy – an online platform to learn and teach programming in the classroom – recently held a 10-day residential “summer computer science camp” that saw 160 high school students immerse themselves in advanced technology disciplines like generative AI, cyber security, cryptography and coding in Sydney and Melbourne.

Grok Academy’s National Computer Science School (NCSS) summer program, for students heading into years 11 and 12, ran concurrently at both the UNSW and the University of Melbourne from 6-15 January.

“Whether you want to fight climate change, make a blockbuster movie, or unlock the secrets of the universe, technology will underpin almost every future career choice of today’s primary and high school students,” Dr James Curran, CEO AND Director of Grok Academy said.

“We believe that establishing a solid computer science understanding and core skills from a child’s early learning years is vital to shore up our future economy.”

The NCSS summer program has expanded over the last 28 years in partnership with the universities, and growing support from iconic Australian businesses such as Airwallex, Atlassian, Australian Signals Directorate, Commonwealth Bank, Dolby, Google, Macquarie Group, NAB, Optiver, Telstra, Westpac and WiseTech Global - many of whom offer site visits for the NCSS summer school students.

Australian tech billionaire Richard White is the CEO of WiseTech Global, a major sponsor and long-term financial supporter of Grok. He said finding talented tech thinkers and creators to fill jobs is already challenging and is only going to get harder in future.

“This program is a chance for industry leaders to engage directly with students and teachers already investing in advanced digital literacy skills and learning,” White said.

“Students get a sense of what our culture is like, especially during the site visits, and often ask questions about job prospects.”

White said the company gets to talk to students about job security, high renumeration potential, fast career progression and a range of other perks that come with working in high-tech businesses like WiseTech Global.

“I and my peers in other tech companies have loved working with Grok and being a part of the program.”

Other agenda highlights from the program included a lock-picking masterclass to mimic techniques of hackers in the virtual world; mock job interviews, lectures, lab work and team projects; programming competition; and fun social activities such as trivia and a scavenger hunt.

“We’re immensely grateful to all our sponsors making this year’s summer school a reality,” Dr Curran said. “We hope that by giving this 2024 cohort of 160 students a glimpse into life as a computer scientist, they might go on to spark a brighter future for our nation.”