New push to get girls into computer sciences (copy)

High school girls work at completing an exercise during a Girls Who Code class at Adobe Systems in San Jose, Calif. Now, the S.C. Commerce Department is offering a free resource for anyone interested in taking up coding. File/AP

Several months after first announcing its free coding school, almost 2,000 people are using the new resources from the S.C. Department of Commerce

SC Codes went live in the fall, but leaders of the initiative launched the program officially Wednesday at an event on Daniel Island-based software company Blackbaud Inc

Among the free coursework are classes that would help learners develop their own website and learn programming languages like JavaScript and Ruby on Rails. The foundation of the courses is borrowed from lessons that the coding school The Iron Yard developed before closing in 2017. 

The people who have developed SC Codes hope it will be a tool to bring coding education to parts of the state where it wasn't available before. The programs also give users the chance to work with a mentor, if they wish. 

Jennifer Fletcher, deputy secretary of commerce, said the new offering from the state could be instrumental to preparing workers for careers that will require a higher level of understanding of technology.

"Improving digital literacy will be the key to our state's ability to compete in the global economy," Fletcher said. "SC Codes will provide that baseline of digital skills that will prepare our citizens of this state for these jobs of tomorrow."

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Anita Zucker, a local billionaire philanthropist and CEO of The InterTech Group Inc. conglomerate, said colleges in South Carolina are graduating experts in computer science and programming, but not fast enough. "It is obvious" the state needs more educational opportunities in coding, said Zucker, a former teacher. 

Even people not considering a career in programming can also benefit from SC Codes, she said. Learning to code can build critical thinking skills. 

"It brings so much more than just the skill of being able to program," Zucker said. "Coding is a critical digital building block."

Reach Mary Katherine Wildeman at 843-937-5594. Follow her on Twitter @mkwildeman.