Why Does Computer Science Need an Advocacy Week?


underrepAs we’ve discussed, computer science is everywhere, and its prominence is growing as our economy depends more and more on technology. Computers and technology are, by all measures, booming industries that aren’t going anywhere.

So you may wonder, if computer science is at the heart of all this growth and progress in our economy, why does it need its own advocacy week?

Simply put, we lack competent and trained computer science professionals, which isn’t just a problem for those hiring managers, but for all of us. Insufficient talent and diversity means innovation will lag. Any way you look at it, there are more CS jobs than there are qualified candidates, and that’s a big deal.

Computer science jobs are growing at twice the national average. Code.org predicts there will be 1 million more jobs than computer science students in 2020. This is a major shortfall and should be a call to arms for all advocates of computer science.

CS Stats

Source: http://code.org/stats

Let's discuss the issues underpinning that prediction. To start, nine out of ten schools don’t offer computer programming classes at all. In fact, no students in Wyoming took the AP computer science exam in 2013. For the few schools that do offer CS courses, half of the states don’t count computer science classes toward graduation credits--an obvious priority for students. Instead, the classes are seen as electives and training, not as part of a core discipline.

Our two cents: we are talking about one of the most in-demand professions here, one with a million open jobs by 2020, and high schools aren’t even counting classes in that subject toward graduation? Shouldn’t high schools be encouraging (or even mandating) students to take classes in this subject? Overwhelmingly, yes.

Another implication hidden in these statistics is diversity. While this topic is a post in itself, here are the highlights. As Forbes study noted in 2011, diversity is the key to innovation and "critical to driving the creation and execution of new products, services, and business processes." Thinking outside the box demands varied perspectives, backgrounds, and areas of expertise. Unfortunately, computer science, a discipline at the forefront of today's innovation, is shockingly homogeneous. Code.org estimates 75% of our population is underrepresented in computer science. In 2013, 3 states had no women take the AP computer science exam, 8 had no Hispanic students do so, and 11 had no African American students. These are among the reasons why some of the largest tech companies, including SAS, are getting behind the Hour of Code.

Again, computer science touches nearly all professions and will continue to be a foundational and essential skill for working in the information economy, not simply for programmers and those in strictly technology-based careers.

So why does computer science need its own advocacy week?

  • Because we are not keeping up with demand.
  • Because today’s employers do not have employees with the necessary skillset.
  • Because diversity drives innovation, and, currently, 75% of our population is underrepresented in computer science.
  • Because students with a strong background in computer science can get a job in any sector when they graduate.
  • Because the stability of our technology-based economy and society depends on it.

So spread the word about computer science, and advocate where you can. Educators, parents, students, and tech professionals alike have the power to promote computer science. Need help getting started? Check out these handy materials available for free from Code.org or share our list of Hour of Code activities.



About Author

Lucy Kosturko

Lucy Shores Kosturko, PhD manages product development for SAS Institute's K-12 educational initiatives, a suite of cross-platform offerings promoting data literacy, artificial intelligence and computer science. After graduating with a B.A. in psychology and computer science from Rhodes College, she earned a M.S. in computer science and PhD in educational psychology from North Carolina State University. Lucy lives in Raleigh, NC with her husband and two daughters.

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