Lighthouse Labs Bridges Digital Literacy Gap with HTML500

Coding is a universal language; however, many find it daunting, confusing, or overwhelming. Like learning all new languages, the best way to become skilled is to engage with it socially. That is the environment The HTML500, a free one-day coding event hosted by Lighthouse Labs, has established.

“When you are learning in a room with 499 other people who don’t know how to code and being helped by 100+ mentors,” said Jeremy Shaki, co-founder of Lighthouse Labs, “the energy is fantastic and the room is engulfed by this buzz of people who want to learn and are seeing the instant results of their learning.”

The HTML500 will kick off 2015 in four Canadian cities: Vancouver (January 24), Calgary (January 31), London (February 7) and Toronto (February 22).

The value of coding stems further than getting a well-paying job (Canadian programmers can make over $50,000 annually), it can also give people the confidence to create projects that change the way we live.

Although coding is often recognized as a young person’s game, the best coders are those who are curious about technology and strive for logical solution-oriented thinking. The 2014 The HTML500 welcomed attendees ranging from 13 to 65 years old.

“Fluency in code for a non-developer can empower them to make their own lives and work more efficient,” said Khurram Virani, co-founder of Lighthouse Labs. “Personal and professional websites, macros in Excel, desktop and mobile apps are some common examples. At work, it will help them communicate better with their developers. And lastly, learning to code and coding can also serve as a great creative outlet.”

For many years, those who were interested in coding had to seek educational workshops and tutorials independently through online sources such as YouTube or apply to post secondary programs and private institutions. Few classes in elementary, middle and high school deal with the in-demand skill set in depth. Students will rather stumble into it or take initiative if they want to pursue programming and tech.

“A great, but telling, story from my partner Khurram is that when he was in Grade 10 he ended up essentially teaching his Computer Science class because the teacher was trying to teach something they didn’t understand,” said Shaki. “That’s still a reality in a lot of schools, and the only way to combat that is to bring awareness to the opportunities coding presents both the individual and the classroom and the ease of which it can be taught at basic levels.”

“The tech industry as a whole is rapidly growing,” said Virani, “resulting in higher demand for coders and there aren’t enough of them out there because as a country, we still haven’t placed a priority on digital literacy. If we are to support the growth of our tech industry here in Canada, we need to start teaching code in schools as a basic part of literacy.”

With numerous job opportunities in mind, The HTML500 encourages attendees to bring along their résumés. After the event in 2014, the organizers discovered that many companies were interested in hiring people for non-technical roles. This year, The HTML500 has partnered with Vancouver Economic Commission to host a career fair at all four events.

“If you think about what many tech companies are looking for when hiring for non-technical roles,” said Shaki, “they are seeking self-motivated people who strive to grow and learn, and who show an interest in tech. With all these participants giving up a Saturday to come and learn something on their own, they are checking off some key checkboxes as marketers, operations people, HR staff, etc.”

Companies participating range from startups to corporate companies, including some establish brands such as Techvibes Job Board regulars Hootsuite and Unbounce.

A one-day event is obviously not enough to tech everything about coding, but The HTML500 is hoping to give the attendees some comfort and confidence, in addition to creating a community for developers of all level.

“We strongly feel that everyone should know the fundamentals of software and how computers work, regardless of their profession,” said Virani. “The current education system has yet to consistently and sufficiently teach coding in schools so we decided to create The HTML500 as a great way to have companies and the developer community come together to bridge the digital divide.”

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