Fostering Tech Talent in Schools
Young Computer Scientists
Resuscitating computer science in the high school classroom, engineers from major tech firms are volunteering their time to teach tomorrow’s technologists.
One way to prepare students for tomorrow’s high tech careers is to put high tech professionals in our schools. That’s just what many tech firms, including Microsoft, are doing. The New York Times reports on the tech giant’s presence in dozens of schools across five states where software engineers spend their mornings volunteering in high school computer science classrooms, helping prepare the next generation of tech innovators.
Nick Wingfield reports in the New York Times:
Leandre Nsabi, a senior at Rainier Beach High School here, received some bluntly practical advice from an instructor recently.
“My teacher said there’s a lot of money to be made in computer science,” Leandre said. “It could be really helpful in the future.”
That teacher, Steven Edouard, knows a few things about the subject. When he is not volunteering as a computer science instructor four days a week, Mr. Edouard works at Microsoft. He is one of 110 engineers from high-tech companies who are part of a Microsoft program aimed at getting high school students hooked on computer science, so they go on to pursue careers in the field.
In doing so, Microsoft is taking an unusual approach to tackling a shortage of computer science graduates – one of the most serious issues facing the technology industry, and a broader challenge for the nation’s economy.
There are likely to be 150,000 computing jobs opening up each year through 2020, according to an analysis of federal forecasts by the Association for Computing Machinery, a professional society for computing researchers. But despite the hoopla around start-up celebrities like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, fewer than 14,000 American students received undergraduate degrees in computer science last year, the Computing Research Association estimates. And the wider job market remains weak.
“People can’t get jobs, and we have jobs that can’t be filled,” Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel who oversees its philanthropic efforts, said in a recent interview.
Big technology companies have complained for years about a dearth of technical talent, a problem they have tried to solve by lobbying for looser immigration rules to accommodate more foreign engineers and sponsoring tech competitions to encourage student interest in the industry. Google, for one, holds a programming summer camp for incoming ninth graders and underwrites an effort called CS4HS, in which high school teachers sharpen their computer science skills in workshops at local universities.
But Microsoft is sending its employees to the front lines, encouraging them to commit to teaching a high school computer science class for a full school year. Its engineers, who earn a small stipend for their classroom time, are in at least two hourlong classes a week and sometimes as many as five. Schools arrange the classes for first thing in the day to avoid interfering with the schedules of the engineers, who often do not arrive at Microsoft until the late morning.
Read the whole story on The New York Times.