Does Tech Advocate Code.org Go Far Enough?

Code.org’s Computer Science Education Week kicks off Dec. 9 to encourage young people to get into STEM careers. But as the hype around the event builds, some question whether the efforts to get computer science classes into every U.S. school — with the help of volunteers such as Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and VC powerhouse John Doerr — are using up financial resources that would be better spent elsewhere.

TimerThough they say there’s real value to the program, they argue that it may make more sense for employers to concentrate on computer science and engineering graduates who are having trouble landing a job after college. For example, offering free boot camp training to new graduates may have a higher success rate, suggests Kim Berry, president of the Programmers Guild. That differs from Code.org’s missions of filling the pipeline by training kindergarteners through high school students in the art of writing code.

The Graduate’s Conundrum

Despite the industry’s lament that there aren’t enough qualified engineers, software developers, network administrators and the like, a Georgetown Public Policy Institute report found that in 2010-2011 the IT industry had a large population of unemployed recent graduates. For example:

  • 14.7 percent unemployment rate for information systems grads.
  • 8.7 percent unemployment rate for computer science grads.
  • 5.9 percent unemployment rate for mathematics grads.

“We have students with computer science degrees who are working at Best Buy or other stores because they can’t find work,” Berry notes. He contends that IT boot camps may fill in the gap between what graduates gleaned in the classroom and what’s required for the job. Some boot camps offer a service that is paid for either partially or in full by employers, while others offer living stipends or will refund the cost if the participant doesn’t find employment within a designated time.

Code.Org Pipeline Filler

Although Berry believes boot camps are a better use of the industry’s resources and support, he doesn’t cast the Code.org effort as a “bad thing” to pursue. Ban Cheah, a research professor and senior economist with Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, expressed a similar sentiment.

“Learning programming is a plus, regardless of where and when they are trying to teach it,” says Cheah, who previously worked as a programmer and systems analyst. He notes that exposing kids to programming at an early age may be more beneficial than having them learn it in a quick and condensed program. “If you take a long view, you want to start (kids) early and get them interested in something new,” he says. “Coding is an art form and it takes a lot of work to figure things out.”

Comments

  1. BY Nightcrawler says:

    I heartily agree with Berry. There is no sense in telling kids they should get into STEM, when there are college graduates with STEM degrees who are folding jeans at Wal-Mart…if they can find any work at all.

    Further to that, I would like to see the statistics regarding what sorts of jobs the employed STEM degree holders have. Are they working in fields that required a STEM degree, or a degree, period? Since getting my Math/CIS degree in 2011, I’ve worked a number of positions, but none of them were even remotely related to math or IT, and none of them required more than a high school diploma — if that. I walked dogs for awhile; that guy would have hired me even if I’d been a HS dropout.

    Law schools have been taken to task for manipulating graduates’ employment numbers, counting a J.D. as “employed” even if the J.D. in question was walking dogs, driving a cab, or making lattes. It was found that an astonishing number of J.D.’s are doing those sorts of bottom-level gigs.

  2. BY SR says:

    Do we really need H1B visa? I think people do not know how to find jobs.

  3. BY Outsourced Sam says:

    There is no future in STEM work. Start your own business and outsource all the work. The only people doing well these days are the top brass who come up with creative ideas how to send your job overseas and give themselves big bonuses for ‘cutting costs’.

    There is no real cost cutting, just bigger bonuses for the top dogs. Heck even our beloved Senate wants to import another 100,000 cheap labor slaves to do the STEM work.

  4. BY Fred Bosick says:

    The same people who are bellowing for more Indentured Servants(H-1Bs) are trying to hoodwink young people into STEM careers.

    Coincidence? I think not!

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