//SN EXCLUSIVE: The year might have only just begun, but Perth Web Girls is already off to a flying start…
Speaking at the official opening of Spacecubed’s revamped Riff co-working space, Perth Web Girls founder Kate Kirwin told the crowd BHP had expanded their support of the organisation by committing to fund three six-month courses for a total of 60 women to learn how to code.
The pilot program will begin with 20 women in Perth around the middle of this year, before expanding to include another 20 from Perth, as well as a cohort of 20 in Brisbane, in 2020.
The new venture expands Perth Web Girl’s existing series of workshops that teach women of all ages basic coding skills with the help of industry experts.
The aim of the new program will be to take women from no knowledge of coding to being job-ready.
Speaking to Startup News at the event, which also celebrated Spacecubed’s seventh birthday, Kate said she was looking forward to the next steps in Perth Web Girls’ development.
“I’m excited to see the growth of the program,” she said.
“Getting more women into tech careers has always been the goal, and this new pathway is accelerating that journey.”
Kate said the program also complements BHP’s target for a gender-equal workforce by 2025.
“One of the really great things about BHP is that their CTO, Diane Jurgens, is a super incredible woman, self-taught coder, and she’s been pushing this really strongly pretty much since the beginning,” she said.
“BHP really want to hire women in technical roles, and we’re trying to increase the funnel of women that can fill those roles.
“What we really wanted to be able to do is to have something practical that they can actually get something done, [because] a lot of the pathways that currently exist just don’t work for women and aren’t practical enough to be able to be employment-ready.Kate Kirwin, Perth Web Girls
“The idea is that we will have opportunities for women to be employed at the end of it, and .. we will have internships available within BHP and within other industry partners.”
Those industry partners include Robert Walters, Mechanical Rock and RAC.
Kate said the program will provide more opportunities than just skills, to make sure participants can make the most of the course and finish in the best possible position.
“There’re a lot of amazing online courses, but online courses only work up to a point,” she said.
“Unless there’s a community around you, and someone that you can ask, like, ‘this does not make sense to me, how do I actually get to the next step?’ there’s a huge drop-off rate.
“We want to have something that’s a little bit of a blend, that they’ve got role models they can aspire to, they’ve got 20 other women that are learning with them, plus an actual end-goal at the end of it that makes them employable and makes them career-ready.”
An industry-recognised qualification
While there are currently no plans for the course to lead to a formal qualification, Kate said participants can expect something even better.
“I guess what’s missing at the moment is a lot of people are graduating [with] computer science degrees and other degrees that haven’t actually had the opportunity to code in real projects, in real team environments,” she said.
“That’s what we’re trying to solve, [the problem] of actually having a portfolio at the end of it.
“So you don’t just have a pretty, shiny piece of paper, but you’ve got something better than that, you’ve got an actual website you can look at and touch and feel.”
To learn more about Perth Web Girls, click here.
Header image: Kate Kirwin speaking at Spacecubed’s seventh birthday party (Photo: Keane Bourke)
Disclosure: Spacecubed supports Perth Web Girls, and is a sponsor of Startup News. The author was at the event as a photographer, but worked independently to produce this article.