NEWARK, NJ - As early as next year, more than half of all jobs will require technical skills. Yet, a majority of students still do not learn to code in or even outside of school.

Panasonic Foundation and the Hispanic Heritage Foundation (HFF) have partnered to launch the National Code as a Second Language (CSL) institute in Newark as an effort to shrink the STEM accessibility gap. The six to eight-week coding course will also launch in three other cities across the country: Reno, Nevada;  Atlanta, Georgia; and Calexico, California.

“This initiative with the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, Panasonic and The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club Newark-Ironbound will afford our students access to the very best in education so that they will become global citizens to meet the growing demand of computer science careers,” Superintendent of Newark Public Schools Roger León said in a statement.

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Through this partnership, students at The Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club will learn to code and be introduced to tech professionals who can serve as mentors. Students will meet for an hour and a half after school once a week.

In the United States, there are 500,000 unfilled tech jobs which are estimated to nearly triple to 1.4 million by next year. Among Black and Hispanic students, those who take Advanced Placement Computer Science in high school are seven to eight times more likely to take computer science in college according to Code.org. However, schools in low-income districts are less likely to offer them.

The program’s goal is two-fold: to provide students the opportunity to develop technology skills and connect them to employers who seek applicants with those skills.

"The harsh reality is that a lot of students of color in predominantly low-income areas do not have access to the full range of STEM courses in their schools,” said Alejandra Ceja, Executive Director of Panasonic Foundation. “Through this partnership, Panasonic is providing more students with hands-on access to innovation and technology that is crucial to the 21st-century workforce."

Students will also be referred to the Latinos On Fast Track (LOFT) Network for online learning, connecting them to other students, mentors, resources, STEM-related events, potential internships and full-time positions with Fortune 500 companies.

"All youth deserve access to technology-based programs and the opportunity to enter the workforce in a stronger position," said Antonio Tijerino, President and CEO of Hispanic Heritage Foundation. "The Panasonic Foundation shares that vision and we are grateful for their leadership in preparing Latino youth for the classroom and workforce.