AO staff run coding classes to boost children's IT skills

Online electricals retailer AO.com has been helping teach young people coding skills as part of an initiative to stimulate a new wave of IT talent in the company’s local region.

Pre-Covid-19, two employees from the Bolton-based retailer’s development team donated their weekends to teach local children tech skills. The classes took place at the Wigan STEAM Club, which offers children extra educational support.

STEAM Club was established to help children in traditional STEM subjects – namely science, mathematics, engineering and technology. But it also includes art courses too.

During the coding sessions, the AO employees helped introduce the Scratch programming language, a starter-point for novice coders. The AO volunteering is currently on pause due to the coronavirus pandemic, but there are plans to start it again when appropriate to do so.

Director of group IT at AO.com, Carl Phillips, commented: “The team here at AO.com is full of talented people and they are all passionate about educating the younger generation.

“Although we offer lots of opportunities to skill share within the office, it’s great to get involved with the local community and share our knowledge.”

He added: “At AO, we’re always interested in the latest tech and IT skills whether that be from new recruit or current AOers, so it’s great to see children are taking an interest in coding at such an early age in their spare time.”

Sarah Norris, lead front end developer at AO.com and one of the company's volunteers on the coding programme, said: “I love coding and I enjoy being able to pass that knowledge onto others.

“Helping the children at the club and working alongside to help develop their education is really great. AO has been so supportive in allowing us to volunteer and have the children involved in AO initiatives too.”

Previously, AO.com has hosted a coding session at its head office for the children at Wigan STEAM.

It is currently National Coding Week, a seven-day annual event which  runs until 20 September. Organisers of the event want to help raise awareness of the opportunities around IT skills, and to help adults with learning these digital skills.

Meanwhile, the AO tech team is currently undergoing a transformation of the way it works, which includes implementing and investing in data engineering, analytics and artificial intelligence functions. The company said it is also working towards agile and flexible working roles, in line with trends experienced during the coronavirus pandemic.

The electricals retailer is on the hunt for 100 new staff between now and March 2021, with the types of skills in demand including software development, business analytics and DevOps engineering.

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