G. Vitols, I. Arhipova, L. Paura

Latvia University of Agriculture (LATVIA)
The European Commission (EC) research “High-Tech Leadership Skills for Europe – Towards and Agenda for 2020 and Beyond” stress that until 2020 in EU will be lack of up to half million of information and communication technology (ICT) specialists and invited to develop national and a common European digital skills strategies. EC recognizes the problem as critical. For the evaluation of the competitiveness of EU countries in the digital economy the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) across five dimensions is used, including Human Capital dimension. The higher value DESI means the country's highest achievements in the digital economy.

According DESI 2017 Latvia achievements in the Human Capital dimension are below average and ranked 23rd among EU countries. In 2016 50% of individuals are still lacking basic digital skills (ranked 19th), the share of ICT specialists was 2.2% of employed individuals in 2015 (ranked 24th) and the number of STEM Graduates per 1000 individuals (aged 20-29) in 2014 was 13 (ranked 25th). Since 2008 in Latvia employment in ICT field have grown by 84% and in 2016 around 25 000 specialists were employed in ICT field. Most demanded profession in market for past three years been programmer. Companies admit that specialist supplies from universities are not sufficient to satisfy the demand. According to Latvia Ministry of Education and Science data annually all Latvia higher education institutions (HEI) provide 670 ICT field bachelors level graduates and it is necessary to increase the amount of graduates up to 3000 per year.

Young people are aware of the development of ICT industry and apply to study this field as for past years computer science study programmes has been most demanded in biggest universities in Latvia. However around half of students are dropping out during the study period. Data from Latvia HEI show that during first study semester student dropout rate is around 30%. Various reasons are named: mismatch of expectations, complexity of study courses such as mathematics and programming, etc. To address this issue field specialists admit that there is a need to address this challenge during elementary school with focus on interest education, extramural schools, profiling of children, promotion of STEM field, as well as addressing people who already graduate university, but want to add knowledge through lifelong learning tools to remain competitiveness in employment market.

In this article we want to introduce success case study of non-profit extramural programming school (EPS) run by Faculty of Information technology of Latvia University of Agriculture for 15 years in cooperation with Jelgava City Council. Now EPS annually enroll more than 130 new students for 5 different courses and offer online training with specially trained educator and in-person workshops. Findings for past 15 years show that properly executed extramural school program can reduce the basic programming skills gap as well as improving school graduate motivation and performance in university ICT program. Aim of the article is to introduce methods for execution of programming extramural school.