Brookfield Institute launches digital literacy pilot with $2 million from Ontario gov’t, philanthropists

coding

The Brookfield Institute at Ryerson University is launching a new digital literacy and coding pilot program designed to help youth prepare for a digital economy.

The pilot is being jointly funded by the Ontario government, which is matching a $1 million donation from philanthropists Janice Fukakusa and Greg Belbeck, and family.

It builds upon existing community infrastructure, such as libraries, community organizations, and schools, to develop its model. The plan includes an extracurricular program for eight cohorts of 15 to 30 participants between the ages of 12 and 15, with 60 percent of the cohort made up of young girls and focused on youth traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields.

“We are thrilled to be able to lift our research off the pages and test a model with our community partners, only made possible through the generous donation of Janice Fukakusa, Greg Belbeck and family, and the matching funds from the Ontario government,” said Sean Mullin, executive director of the Brookfield Institute. “We see this as an opportunity to help build an innovation economy that works for everyone.”

The two-year project was designed by experts in digital literacy programming, youth engagement, community development, and education policy. The program will be evaluated regularly in order to generate key insights and recommendations for policy makers in education and digital skills training.

According to the Institute’s own research, youth are facing higher skill and experience requirements as more entry-level positions are being impacted by automation.

“The digital literacy + coding pilot will go a long way in helping young people develop the skills they’ll need to succeed in the workforce for years to come,” said Mitzie Hunter, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development. “Our government understands that today’s in-demand skills are shifting — it’s why we made a commitment to increase Ontario’s STEM graduates by 25 per cent over the next five years. By supporting this program, we’re ‘making sure Ontario’s workforce stays competitive and adaptable in the new digital economy.”

The Institute will work alongside the formal education system to inform future curriculum decisions.

The pilot will run for two years at sites:

  • Toronto Public Library – Centennial Branch
  • YMCA Toronto – YMCA Academy
  • Hamilton Boys & Girls Club
  • London Boys & Girls Club
  • Belleville Public Library
  • YMCA Sudbury

The Brookfield Institute is partnering with Actua, Boys & Girls Clubs of Canada, the Information and Communications Technology Council, Canada Learning Code, RBC Capital Markets, Shopify, Toronto Public Library, YMCA, and United Way Greater Toronto.