While programs like President Obama's new TechHire Initiative aim to boost tech skills as people prepare to enter the workforce, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is hoping to get students interested in coding at a much earlier age.

In response to a significant skills shortage, the Make It Digital Campaign will provide every 11-year-old student in the UK with a Micro Bit microcomputer which can be used to learn the basics of coding. The standalone ARM-based computer is described as a stripped-down version of a Raspberry Pi that was built in collaboration with ARM, Barclays, Microsoft, Samsung and the Raspberry Pi Foundation. In total, the BBC plans to hand out a million Micro Bits free of charge.

The Micro Bit isn't seen as a competitor to similar devices. Instead, the broadcaster hopes it'll serve as a springboard to more powerful and complex platforms although it will be able to communicate with other boards via Bluetooth.

The BBC plans to launch the program in September and says the Micro Bit will be compatible with C++, Python and Touch Develop programming languages.

The Make It Digital program will also include a nine-week apprenticeship for 5,000 young and unemployed citizens to help boost their tech skills by teaching them how to do things such as build a website and make short videos for the Internet. The top-performing trainees will be offered an apprenticeship at Radio 1, we're told.