Anybody Can Learn
Published in

Anybody Can Learn

A $1 trillion opportunity for America

This election, America has demanded economic opportunity.

Our working class — young and old, rural and urban, Democrat and Republican — is worried about being left behind by globalization, technological change, and a system that doesn’t seem to reward hard work the way it used to. The American Dream feels broken.

What if manufacturing jobs (and many other jobs) disappear due to automation?

In the 21st century, technology will change the economy even more than globalization. In transportation alone, self-driving technology will eventually impact the jobs of millions of truck drivers. Forrester Research predicts that 7% of today’s occupations will be automated by 2025. Manufacturing jobs may disappear as fast as they come back from Mexico or China. Does this mean we’ll all be out of work? History tells us the answer is no. It means we must prepare for the jobs of the future.

Computing jobs provide the most economic opportunity. 500,000 open jobs today.

This decade, computing occupations have become the single largest sector of new wages in the U.S. This isn’t just about future jobs. It’s about more than 500,000 currently open jobs. These are among the best-paying jobs in the country. And these job openings are growing almost twice as fast as all the other jobs in the country. Even before automation changes the picture, computing jobs already outpace manufacturing jobs. For example, in the Detroit area, there are only 1,150 open manufacturing jobs with a median salary of $46,350. In the same market, there are 6,150 open computing jobs with a median salary of $97,850.[1]

Source: Conference Board. Analysis by Code.org

Often our solution to fill these openings is to import talent from across the globe. Given the majority of high-skilled immigration is for computer scientists, we should embrace policies that will grow talent at home.

The opportunity goes far beyond just coding and California.

This isn’t just about Silicon Valley. 91% of open software and computing jobs are outside Silicon Valley. In Michigan there are 15,000 currently open jobs. In Virginia, 34,000. In Ohio, 15,000. Georgia, 20,000. [2] Across urban cities or rural neighborhoods, these job openings add up.

This isn’t just about tech companies. 67% of computing jobs are in retail, banking, transportation, entertainment, agriculture, manufacturing, even government. CEOs of the largest airlines, hotels, banks, entertainment companies, retailers agree.

This isn’t just about coding. It’s about jobs in networking, design, information technology, data analysis, and cybersecurity. These jobs are accessible without advanced degrees, in fact 16% of the existing workforce in computing require only an associate’s degree or less.

This is a trillion-dollar opportunity.

The opportunity is larger than the 500,000 open jobs in computing. Each time you fill a high-paying computing job, you create 5 more local jobs in the neighborhood. When you factor in the growth in computing jobs, you have an opportunity to add over a trillion dollars to the economy over the next decade. [3]

With 500,000 open jobs across the country, what’s the problem?

The problem is in education. Not enough students learn the skills to fill these jobs. Students want to learn computer science, but most don’t have the opportunity. In K-12, most schools don’t even teach CS. And universities don’t have the capacity to support the exploding student interest in this field. Consider the mother in rural Ohio whose daughter’s school doesn’t even offer CS. Consider the African American at University of Washington who can’t study CS because capacity limits force the department to reject 70% of CS students. Consider the worker in Detroit who lost his manufacturing job, when Detroit is seeing explosive growth in software jobs and is desperate to hire technologists.

Source: Gallup poll sponsored by Google

Aside from the issue of access, we have a major diversity problem in computer science — not only in the workforce, but also in university and in high school. Women comprise only 26% of the software workforce, and under 20% of CS students in university or high school. The numbers among underrepresented minorities are just as bleak.

The solution lies in education and re-training.

Every school should offer computer science. The Trump 100-day plan already recognizes this by calling for expanding career and technical education. Here are three specific things the Trump administration can do to make the 100-day goal concrete:

1) Provide federal funding for K-12 schools to teach computer science. Every school should teach computer science. President Obama suggested that this is a $4B problem. As a nonprofit that has been addressing this problem at a national scale for years, we disagree. A simple analysis shows the true cost is closer to $400M, as a one-time expense that could be spread over 4 years.

2) Provide incentives to universities to prepare graduates for our workforce needs. As tuition and student debt skyrocket, consider rewarding colleges that adapt their curriculum and teaching capacity to fit today’s workplace needs. A computer science degree, even from a lesser college, is worth much more than any other college degree. [4] Students with these degrees will repay their tuition loans faster, and rarely default. Consider slashing their interest rates.

Source: Hamilton Project (Brookings)

3) Expand re-training programs for adults. Create programs to retrain adults in computing skills to put the underemployed back to work. Technology boot-camps for adults are already the fastest-growing sector of private education, and they’re needed in more regions, urban and rural.

Given the cyber threat, we don’t have a choice to wait

Given a growing cyber threat and our country’s lack of preparation to defend itself, this issue goes beyond education and economic opportunity — it is a matter of national security. This issue goes beyond the Department of Defense’s own challenges in hiring software and cybersecurity experts. The weakest link in our cyber defense is our own citizens and their inadequate technology education. Unless we take steps to better educate Americans in computer science, our own safety is at risk.

Education is driven locally, but this is a shared federal and state issue

Decisions about education funding, standards, and policies should be local. But we’ve never had an urgent need to add an entire new field of study to our K-12 system. The Reagan Administration first sounded the alarm for teaching computer science in high school. 30 years later, less than half of our schools even offer it, we struggle to fill open computing jobs, and our national security is at risk. U.S. governors — all of whom support more local control of education — recognize this issue goes beyond any one state. In April, 27 bipartisan Governors came together to ask Congress for targeted funding to address this issue.

History has shown local programs alone won’t address this problem. How many state departments of education have even a single employee in charge of K-12 computer science? Only six. If there’s not even a single person running a computer science department at the state or district level, the local budget will be divided among the departments that already exist, leaving nothing for the computer science department that hasn’t even been formed yet. A simple survey shows that 88% of Americans want this issue to be addressed with federal funding.

Everybody agrees we should do this.

This has the bipartisan support of Governors, members of Congress, and Mayors from both sides of the aisle. Surveys show that 90% of American parents want their children to study computer science in school, and 88% want this to have federally funding support. Just a few months ago, a coalition of Fortune 500 CEOs, governors, educators, and nonprofit leaders signed an open letter asking the Federal government to fund computer science education. This issue has the support of not just every major tech CEO, but also the CEOs of America’s top airlines, hotel chains, banks, manufacturers, entertainment companies, you name it.

Despite the divisions in America, we can find common ground on issues like this, that everybody agrees on. The American Dream is broken. This popular, trillion-dollar opportunity is one of the best ways to fix it.

Hadi Partovi, CEO, Code.org

Cameron Wilson, COO and VP of Government Affairs, Code.org

Addressing common concerns

Q: Aren’t tech jobs being outsourced to other countries?

A: No, they’re being in-sourced.

This is a very common misconception. In fact, the opposite is true. Tech jobs are being in-sourced, by importing talent from other countries via high-skilled immigration. It’s so bad that 59% of all high-skills immigration is to bring in more computer scientists.

Source: Office of Labor Certification, US Department of Labor

Q: Shouldn’t we let students study what they want?

A: Yes. They want to study computer science, but their school doesn’t teach it.

When you ask students what subjects they like the most, computer science is at the top, just behind art and dance. Unfortunately, most schools don’t offer it. So yes, we should let students study what they want, by offering computer science classes in every school.

Source: Change the Equation. Analysis by Code.org

Q: Not every child will become a coder. A: Computer science is foundational for every career, like math or science We teach math and science to every student, not just the ones who aim to be mathematicians or a biologists. Computer science is equally foundational. Even if only 10–15% of students go on to pursue careers in computing, all students can benefit from understanding what an algorithm is, how the internet works, and how encryption impacts cybersecurity.

Q: Our schools struggle to teach basic math and reading…

A: True, and we still teach history, science, foreign languages

It’s true, America’s schools have many demands and challenges. Yet we don’t limit public education to math only. Every school offers classes in biology, chemistry, foreign languages and history. Computer science is no different. Besides, why do we teach math anyway? Not because of the jobs for mathematicians, but to develop problem solving and critical thinking skills. Computer science helps students develop these same foundational skills, and it also leads to the best career opportunities in the world.

Q: If we add computer science, what do schools remove?

A: Out-dated tech-ed courses, like how to type or how to search the web

There are many ways a school can implement computer science without lengthening the school day. Code.org has worked successfully with thousands of schools on exactly this problem. In middle school or elementary school, computer science can be integrated with math/science, or replace outdated technology courses that teach students how to type and how to search the web. In high school, nothing needs to be replaced — when computer science is offered alongside biology, chemistry, or calculus, students get to choose.

Q: How is this different than STEM education?

A: We’ve invested billions in STEM, not in CS. 70% of new STEM jobs are in CS

Obviously science, math, technology, and engineering are all important subjects for students. Fortunately, the government has invested billions in STEM, and every school in America already teaches math and science. When it comes to job growth, over two thirds of all new STEM jobs are in computing fields, whereas most K-12 schools don’t even offer a single course in computer science, and as a result only 8% of STEM graduates are computer science majors. The STEM gender gap is also predominantly in computer science. Our nation needs a targeted effort, focused specifically on computer science.

Footnotes:

[1] Source: Conference Board Help Wanted Online analysis of current job openings as of December 13, 2016.

[2] Data on current job openings in computer science: Conference Board data compiled by Code.org

[3] This is not a rigorous economic analysis, it’s a rough approximation to give a sense of scale: (500,000 computing jobs) x (6x multiplier from 5 other local jobs) x ($55,000 average salary) x (10 years) = $1.7 trillion. The $55,000 salary assumption comes from combining the 1 computing job + 5 local jobs. Computing jobs have an average salary of $91,000, compared to the national average salary of $48,000 (Source: BLS May 2015 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates).

[4] Comparison of the lifetime value of college degrees: the Hamilton Project.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store