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Apple launches free courses for the next generation of app coders

The full-year Swift curriculum is for high school and community college students.

Apple has unveiled a free curriculum designed to teach high school and community college students app coding skills. The Swift language course has already been adopted by six US community college systems that will distribute it to half a million students this fall. While it's generous on Apple's part, Tim Cook acknowledged that it needs to address an industry-wide shortage of coders, especially for enterprise apps. "That's really in its infancy, in terms of explosion, and so there's just a ton of opportunity here," he told USA Today.

The course entails around 180 hours of training with lesson plans, instruction and exercises for teachers. Students will "learn to code and and design fully functional apps, gaining critical job skills in software development and information technology," writes Apple. The program is an extension of Apple kindergarten to grade 12 "Everyone Can Code" curriculum that helps students get comfortable with code.

It will be offered through the Alabama Community College System, Columbus State Community College, Harrisburg Area Community College, Houston Community College, Mesa Community College and San Mateo Community College, among others. Houston's Community College is also opening an iOS Coding and Design School, Apple says.

The availability of the course ahead of Apple's WWDC is just a coincidence, Cook said, adding that it's more about getting it ready ahead of the Fall 2017 semester. However, we wouldn't be surprised to hear him trumpet the program during the event's keynote address.

Apple wrote that like the recently announced $1 billion Advanced Manufacturing Fund, "the new Swift coding curriculum is another example of Apple's commitment to economic development [in the US]." However, in an interview with Mashable, he dismissed the idea that Apple was trying to curry favor with Trump's "America-First" White House. "We began working on Swift many years ago. It spanned multiple administrations. No, this isn't related to anything to do with politics."

While Swift is open source, it's primarily used to build iOS apps, so coders would want to learn another language to do Android apps (for now). By getting as many students as possible hooked on Swift, however, Apple is obviously aiming to gain an advantage for its own ecosystem. "It's sort of the next step of a long plan for us with Swift and trying to help prepare people for the new economy," Cook said.