By 2020 there will be 1.4 million jobs available in computer science, but U.S. universities are only on track to produce qualified graduates to fill less than a third of those jobs, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Only a tiny number of graduates in computer science are women. The demand for qualified candidates in all STEM fields—Science, Technology, Engineering & Math—is expected to keep growing without enough qualified professionals to keep up. Researchers suggest two solutions to change this trend.

The first is to spark an early interest in STEM (and STEAM!) fields so there will be more awareness, interest and experience in STEM before college. Second, make STEM more accessible and inclusive to make it clear that anyone—male or female—has the potential to succeed in STEM fields.

Sparking an early interest in STEAM learning for all children is the mission of locally owned and operated Zaniac Learning, located in South Asheville in Biltmore Park Town Square. By engaging K-8 grade kids in STEAM curriculum, experiments and activities, Zaniac gives kids technology skills long before college arrives and fosters inclusivity with its fun, high-tech atmosphere for kids. (The “A” for Art includes technology programs such as 3D Design & Printing, Fashion Design and GarageBand.) 

Research from the Department of Education shows early exposure to STEAM enrichment has positive impacts across the entire spectrum of learning and contributes to success at school. Zaniac donated more than 50 scholarships to area schools this year for students to take Zaniac Programs & Camps.

“Zaniac wants to make STEAM skills an integral part of children’s growing up experience,” says co-owner and campus director Lynne Porter. 

“We want to give support and empowerment to each child in a nurturing environment. We get excited to see the robots and circuits kids are building, what kids are coding in Scratch or Java, and designing and printing in 3D. We love that moment when a child is beaming with pride about what they’ve done and they can’t wait to show us,” Lynne says.

Zaniac’s technology programs and semester courses are purposefully kept small—around five kids per instructor—and are grouped by age to provide an exceptional personalized experience. 

“We want kids to acquire new technology skills and have more confidence that translates to projects they can do at home and at school,” Lynne says.

Zaniac instructors provide peer learning and mentorship. When kids see that writing code is like solving puzzles, they see it as a superpower and they can’t wait to do more. 

Kids can discover what makes their eyes light up with joy—whether for an after-school program or a camp. “We want to empower young children to strengthen their self-confidence through a world of science and discovery,” Lynne says. “We want to show kids that they can do things they didn’t think possible.”

To find out more about Zaniac, go to ZaniacAsheville.com

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