House of Code. #CAC2016

If you look at recent reports on the American workforce, you’ll see something pretty remarkable. There are almost a quarter of a million unfilled job openings in the U.S. But what is remarkable, you ask? All 250,000 of these positions exist in a single field: the developer workforce.

Tech jobs pay six-figure salaries on average, yet there is a massive shortage of tech developers in our country. Big companies and new start-ups alike struggle to fill these roles with qualified candidates. Given that we know innovation drives growth and creates job opportunities, this gap is a major problem for our economy.

Massachusetts was recently identified as one of the most innovative states in the country, yet even here, shortages of developers persist. Companies have resorted to offering finders fees worth tens of thousands of dollars to employees who recruit successful job candidates.

As Co-Chair of the 2016 Congressional App Challenge, a national initiative in which Members of Congress host an annual app building competition in their districts, I am dedicated to addressing this problem by growing the next developer workforce.

The Congressional App Challenge launched on July 18th, and a bipartisan coalition of more than 150 Members of Congress are taking initiative to support STEM and coding education.

When you survey millennials, results show that they consistently rate ‘making a difference’ as one of their priorities. One of the most exciting aspects about the tech sector is that it provides an avenue for anyone who can write code to make a difference — from creating apps like the ACLU’s Mobile Justice smartphone app that allows bystanders to record and upload videos to the civil liberties organization to Crowdvoice which curates news on human rights violations.

It is not an exaggeration that 18 and 19 year olds today have the potential to impact the daily lives of millions of people. This is another reason why the Congressional App Challenge is so exciting — and so important.

By being a part of this Challenge, Members of Congress have a chance to become real leaders in their community and make STEM education a priority. With over 89% of the tech developer jobs outside Silicon Valley, it proves that the tech industry is not just in one location; it is everywhere. From Orange County, California to Salem, Massachusetts, tech opportunities exist across the country.

If the status quo remains unchanged, by 2020 the U.S. is estimated to only have enough qualified applicants to fill 30% of STEM related jobs. That is less than four years away. These tech jobs are not the ‘jobs of tomorrow;’ they are today’s jobs that are simply currently unfilled.

At a time when the growth of the tech industry will dictate the future competitiveness of the American economy, it is imperative that our nation’s leaders inspire youth to achieve their potential. Spearheading the App Challenge is a way to answer this call, and I challenge other Members of Congress to get involved. It’s time to take action — Entrepreneurs, job creators, and our future demand it.