Business Leaders Stress Importance of Technology Education
Eager to encourage the next generation of workers to embrace the IT jobs in their future, a group of technology industry leaders have banded together to speak out on behalf of Code.org, a non-profit organization dedicated to encouraging kids to pursue computer education.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey and Dropbox founder Drew Houston are all among the high-profile voices behind the movement. But perhaps the biggest star of all is Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, who encourages students to follow in his footsteps and embrace programming just as Zuckerberg himself did before dropping out of Harvard to advance his social media site.
"Programming is one of the only things you can do in the world where you can sit down and make something completely new from scratch," Zuckerberg says in a Code.org promotional video.
Code.org warns viewers that although the tech industry is creating jobs at an impressive rate, the American education system isn't turning out enough qualified applicants to fill them. It's estimated that only 400,000 college graduates will apply for 1.4 million jobs in the IT sector over the next decade.
Technology consultant Rob Enderle told Sci-Tech Today that because America lags behind academically, especially in math, the nation is in danger of losing tech jobs to countries like India and China, where there's more tech talent to fill open positions.
Americans losing academic ground
There's plenty of data to back up Enderle's concerns. The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study revealed in December that the United States is far from the educational superpower it once professed to be – the survey examined academic achievement at both the fourth- and eighth-grade levels, finding the U.S. to lag behind several Asian nations in both. Americans finished 11th in fourth-grade math, ninth in eighth-grade math, seventh in fourth-grade science and 10th in eighth-grade science.
Furthermore, very few students in the U.S. are being considered "advanced" math students – only 7 percent of American eighth-graders earned that distinction, versus 48 percent in Singapore and 47 percent in South Korea.
"Clearly, we have some room to improve, particularly at the number of advanced students we have compared to the world," Jack Buckley, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, told the New York Times.
Code.org highlighted the fact that tech jobs, already at 1.4 million, are growing at double the national average, representing "a $500 billion opportunity" by the end of this decade. The onus is on American schools and their students to produce the talent necessary to seize it.