Coding Access, Exposure, and Mentorship: Code Nation End of Year Student Survey Results
Code Nation aims to create true and lasting change in the tech landscape, and we believe that this systemic shift begins in the classroom. We focus our efforts on individuals with historically excluded backgrounds in the tech industry with the ultimate goal of building accessible and equitable pathways to careers.
During the 2021-22 school year, we brought this vision to life in our work every day. We served 1,264 students through 77 programs in 57 schools across our three regions: New York, the Bay Area, and Chicago. But, we couldn’t do it alone. Our volunteer community of nearly 250 represents some of the biggest names in tech: Google, Stripe, Groupon, and more. In fact, our company partnerships, a vital element for our goal to expose young people to the industry, are stronger than ever with companies like Grubhub, Seat Geek, Verizon, and Reverb offering field trips, Fellowships, and sponsoring events (like our first in-person Hackathon in Chicago in more than two years!)
At the end of each school year, we ask students about their experience with Code Nation. Here are our biggest takeaways:
1. Exposure to coding has an impact on the trajectory of students’ journeys and careers.
2. Students have a positive experience that they’re excited to share with their peers.
3. We foster a sense of confidence and belonging among our community of students.
Exposure to coding through Code Nation’s programs has a measurable impact on the trajectory of our students’ journeys and careers.
According to recent research, computer science education directly benefits students and enhances their career preparedness. And while computer science is foundational in the most rapidly growing job industry, less than half of public schools in the US offer computer science curriculum and historically underrepresented populations, including Black and Latinx students are even less likely to attend a school offering computer science classes. No exposure means no change in the continued inequity in tech.
One of the core tenants of our work is to expose coding and the tech sector to these students. This begins in our Intro to Web Development course, where volunteers work together to teach Code Nation’s curriculum in the classroom in schools that otherwise wouldn’t have computer science offerings. After participating in this class, 60% of students shared they are more interested in pursuing a career using coding skills. One student shared, “[my] experience with Code Nation allowed me to create my very own video games. I never thought I was able to.”
Code Nation’s Fellowship is an immersive program for students to explore portfolio projects and develop professional skills on-site with a company partner and mentors. This more advanced opportunity leads to an increase in our career impact metrics, with 91% of participants sharing they are more interested in pursuing a career using coding skills.
This inflection point is so important —76% of Code Nation students identify as Latinx or Black, and 44% identify as women or non-binary, all groups that are underrepresented in today’s tech industry. We also recognize that not all students’ career interests will be to enter tech, but know that the lesson of understanding that an industry isn’t right for you is just as valuable as learning it is.
These programs may be a student’s first opportunity to build social capital, closing the network gap. More than half of students shared they feel like they can reach out to volunteers they’ve met for professional references or a recommendation letter. Because Code Nation’s volunteers are tech professionals who work in the industry, this connection is extremely valuable — offering concrete ways to engage with the tech field, gain access to entry points in companies, and get real world advice.
A student shared the best part about their Code Nation experience, in addition to coding, was the patience volunteers had while working with them, and being comfortable communicating with volunteers in class.
Students participating in Code Nation’s programs have a positive experience that they’re excited to share with peers.
We work hard to develop industry-aligned curriculum for the classroom and work closely with our partner companies to offer on-site opportunities like field trips and Fellowships. We collect feedback from students on their experiences both in the Intro to Web Development course and Fellowships to make sure we deliver on our commitments and make improvements each year.
During the 2021-22 school year, 82% of students who participated in Intro to Web Development reported that they are happy with Code Nation, and 80% would recommend Code Nation to a friend or classmate.
97% of Fellowship students reported that the lesson activities and projects were interesting and fun to complete, and 100% reported that the volunteers they worked with took time to learn about them and their interests.
Code Nation fosters a sense of confidence and belonging among its community of students.
Despite the tech sector’s emphasis on diversity, there hasn’t been much progress — according to a recent report, 67% of tech companies are comprised of less than 5% Black employees, and women make up only 26% of computer science related jobs. This means our community of students is not seeing tech leaders or workers who look like them or come from similar backgrounds.
There is a long path ahead, which means that Code Nation alums that pursue a career in tech will be the minority at the workplace. Code Nation programs are designed to build an inclusive, diverse community of peers who will support and sustain one another through their careers.
The pressure to succeed, along with the challenges of navigating the tech industry as a member of a historically excluded group, can also manifest in imposter syndrome — an issue all too common in tech. To beat this, we aim for our community of students, volunteers, teachers, and alums to foster a culture of confidence, develop a sense of belonging, and to be equipped with the soft skills to be successful.
Students need confidence and support to learn new skills and build professional networks of mentors and friends, so we ask our students how comfortable they feel interacting with professionals in the tech industry.
72% of Intro to Web Development students reported that Code Nation has made them feel more comfortable, and 91% of Fellowship students reported the same. Further, 90% of Fellowship students also reported feeling more confident in their professional skills because of Code Nation.
We also use our annual survey as an opportunity to grow, and we track all responses and find areas for improvement. For example, students who participated in a Fellowship program shared that they’d like to focus more on developing professional skills and preparing for interviews during the program. Other students shared they wish more of our programs could’ve been offered in-person (something we are hoping for!).
Looking ahead, Code Nation is growing. We anticipate increasing the number of students we serve and we’re excited to continue to cultivate new partnerships across the country with schools and tech companies. In September, we’ll celebrate our tenth birthday and a decade of impact. To keep up with all-things Code Nation, subscribe to our email list for news and updates here.