Apple CEO Tim Cook, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin unveil tech training facility
BIRMINGHAM — Alabama native Tim Cook, CEO of Apple Inc., joined Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin on Thursday morning to unveil the headquarters of Ed Farm in downtown Birmingham.
Ed Farm is a new technology-education initiative that will provide citizens of Alabama with the opportunity to jump-start their coding skills and become proficient in other areas of modern computer technology.
The high-tech headquarters — located on 4th Ave N in downtown Birmingham — that was shown on Thursday will be the base of operations. Through partnerships, Ed Farm aims to make its way into local classrooms and workforce training programs.
The venture has three main offerings at the start, one each for students, teachers, and adult learners.
The City of Birmingham, Apple Inc. and the Alabama Power Foundation were identified at the ceremony as the three main sources of funding for the new initiative. In addition to money, Apple is contributing devices, software, and technical support for the program. Apple’s gifts are part of the company’s Community Education Initiative.
The financial conduit that aggregates the funding and hosts Ed Farm is the 501(c)3 organization TechAlabama. TechAlabama, which grew out of TechBirmingham, has been around since 2002 and invests in initiatives that advance Alabamians’ ability to learn about technology.
Woodfin said in his remarks, “We’ll be opening doors for both children, as well as adults to explore careers in technology, STEM, and coding.”
“Tim is one of us. He’s a native of Robertsdale, Alabama. He went to Auburn University, but we won’t hold that against him,” joked Woodfin in his introduction of Cook.
“Tech education is the key to unlocking opportunities for future generations,” began Cook.
“Education is in Apple’s DNA, and Alabama is in mine,” he added.
“By creating this community hub, and by giving teachers the tools and skills to bring coding and creativity lessons in their classrooms, we can make a ripple in a much bigger pond. Ed farm is helping us achieve that,” Cook continued.
The three offerings Ed Farm has publicized are named Teacher Fellows, Student Fellows and the Pathways program.
The Teacher Fellows program has been underway the longest. Since 2019, a group of 25 Birmingham City Schools teachers spread across 13 schools have been undergoing training for how to best bring coding and other computing lessons into the classroom. Ed Farm has provided them with curriculum support and technology for their classrooms.
Ed Farm plans to bring in more groups of teachers in the future to continue the growth of computer-science lessons in Alabama’s schools.
The Student Fellows program is aimed at Birmingham students in middle and high school. The goal is for students to be given a technical challenge at the beginning of the year that they learn to solve over time.
The Pathways program is designed to serve adults in the greater Birmingham area. Free 11-week classes will be offered at the Ed Farm headquarters where adults can learn how to develop apps and code in Apple’s Swift programming language. Successful participants will receive assistance in being placed at an institution like Lawson State Community College that can provide a pathway to receiving a postsecondary credential.
The Birmingham headquarters of Ed Farm will have an open doors policy for those interested in learning more. Ed Farm’s website lists five employees for the beginning of the location.
Woodfin told the press after the event that the Ed Farm initiative can be traced to a trip Birmingham leaders took to Chicago in 2018. They saw a partnership the Windy City had with Apple, and began a relationship with the tech company that culminated in Ed Farm.
Deon Gordon is a Birmingham City Schools alum and the president of TechBirmingham, the parent organization of Ed Farm.
He remarked about Ed Farm, “Is it a coding initiative? Yes. And is it a workforce development plan? It is that too. But at the end of the day, it is an idea, an idea as big as Birmingham’s founding. The idea that we don’t just have to just survive the fourth industrial revolution, we can thrive in it.”
Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: email@example.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.