The Education Group/Coder DoJo

The education committee was set up to identify ways of supporting people in the community to upgrade their skills and assist them in accessing training and education to improve their lives.  As a result of the down turn in the economy the PCDA initiated a project to identify ways of increasing opportunities in Portarlington.

One of the areas identified was that the % of students accessing 3rd level education in Laois was low in comparison to other areas inside and outside of Leinster.  The committee surveyed students and parents and found that a high % of students were not getting enough points for the specific courses that interested them in college.  The committee decided to set up affordable revision courses for junior and leaving cert ordinary and higher level subjects.  These subjects are delivered for €20 per student for 90 minutes tuition and have increased the amount of students now being accepted on courses.

The committee in conjunction with advisors from Enterprise Ireland also identified that Portarlington needed to up their IT capabilities in order to increase job opportunities and encourage a culture of entrepreneurship in the town.  It was decided to start a coding club (Coder Dojo) in the town for 6 to 18 year old people to gain skills in: JavaScript, html, developing and making apps, web development, robotics, networking, PC maintenance and IT in general.  There are approx. 120 young people attending this club now and attend classes run by volunteers every Saturday morning in Coláiste Íoságain for two hours. The Coder Dojo also motivated parents to upgrade their IT skills in order to help their children – we have ran coding clubs for the parents so that they could help with the mentoring of the various classes.  (All classes are free – no charges to parents or students as funds are raised to keep club open).

Open Leaning area – Another area identified was that there was no access to computers for people to upgrade their skills, complete online courses or apply for jobs.  There are now 15 computers available for people to use in the afternoons in Oriel House.

Future Projects:

Next step/project is to develop a language club using the same model as the coder dojo club.  We hope to encourage people from different countries/backgrounds/multilingual to volunteer their time to develop activities with children from age 5 upwards.  So we will encourage people from France, Spain, Poland, Romania etc to teach their language to children through fun activities.  This will provide our young people with the ability to speak other languages from a younger age (currently only available from 1st year in Secondary school).  Employers want people with IT skills and at least one other language and we are striving to ensure that our young people in the community will be ready!  This project will also help to integrate people from other countries into our community through interacting with each other in the language clubs.