Student hackathons and the future of IT in Slovenia and EU

Saturday, June 23, 2018
The European Commission predicts that by 2020, European states will lack a million employees with knowledge of ICT technologies. In Slovenia, too, there is a lack of good IT staff and this deficit will only increase, is the opinion of computer science student Eva L. Žnidaršič. That is why she thinks that young people should be more enthusiastic about pursuing a career in this field. Eva L. Žnidaršič is a student at the Faculty of Computer and Information Science of the University of Ljubljana, where she is finishing her Masters studies. At the same time, she is working in Loop, formerly 4th Office, where she is mostly taking care of personnel placement. In her free time, she is also leading the Computer Scientist Society, with which they prepared the fourth student hackathon DragonHack this year.
The event was organized for the first time four years ago, following the example of events from abroad, especially those in England and the US. “Back then, the event was something new for Slovenia, it was also an unknown for the tech world,” said L. Žnidaršič. The event annually gathers more than 150 students who, with help of mentors and company representatives, are looking for the most innovative tech solutions. The teams have 24 hours to find the most innovative and technologically elaborate solutions that will convince representatives of businesses. DragonHack participants are awake the whole night, even though the event is taking place from Saturday 9 AM to Sunday 5 PM. The organizers consequently try to create a very productive atmosphere. Within the event, they prepare numerous additional activities, workshops, the participants can relax with a massage or jolt their muscles awake with a morning workout. The interest for the event among students is incredibly big and tickets, which are free, usually run out within a minute of being posted, said L. Žnidaršič. The team is planning a new hackathon, ThunderHack, this year. Unlike DragonHack, where the participants are mostly computer science students, this hackathon will be dedicated mostly to students of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering. ThunderHack will take place on 10 and 11 November at the Faculty, revealed L. Žnidaršič.
Companies in the IT sector are also increasingly interested in collaborating with hackathons, trying to find staff this way. According to L. Žnidaršič, finding new staff is becoming more and more innovative. Besides collaborating with hackathons, companies in the IT domain are also organizing summer schools for computer science students, inviting them to events where they introduce themselves at the end etc. They are also increasingly aware of the importance of their employees and invest in them more, thinks L. Žnidaršič. She thinks that in Slovenia and even further, there is a lack of good IT staff and in the future, this deficit will only increase. Young people often don’t know what the profession of a computer scientist even is, and so they are also less likely to decide for a career in this domain, thinks L. Žnidaršič. The numerous stereotypes and wrong notions about this profession also contribute to this. “It’s typical for them to imagine a computer scientist as someone locked up in a basement. Additionally, they are often taught the basics of digital literacy, the use of Word and Excel in primary schools and high schools, and think that’s computer science, which it, of course, isn’t. Computer science mostly means solving various challenges,” she emphasized.
In her view, programming should be introduced into the school curriculum. She feels that there are also quite a few organizations and initiatives in Slovenia that are striving for this. One of such initiatives is the project called Codeweek, the European week of programming, which is taking place in more than 50 countries in Europe and across the world. Until 2020, educational training within Codeweek will include at least 50 percent of students, said the Slovenian ambassador of the project, Katja K. Ošljak. She thinks that young people should be taught digital skills so that digitalization in Europe will advance faster. More about it at the link.

Read the full story on (in Slovene).