Let’s include all of computer science in ‘computer science for all’

The budget the president submitted to Congress last week proposes $4 billion to help school districts offer computer science to every student in America. Currently, only about 25 percent of students have access to a computer science class in the course of their schooling. But today’s information economy is growing rapidly and relies on a steady stream of IT workers.

The White House is absolutely correct in pointing out the shortage of tech workers nationally and the need to prepare the next generation of computing and data professionals. The CS for All initiative will put the spotlight on a certain type of in-demand computing professional: the software developer.

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But while coding drives a number of businesses – including Google, Apple, Amazon and other high-profile tech companies – there are even more computing jobs available outside of coding.

For every worker who writes code, there are two technology workers in non-coding roles: desktop support, database administration, network configuration, cloud computing, and cyber security, to name just a few. These are good paying jobs, often starting out in the $50,000 range and advancing to six-figure salaries.

And there are countless more technology-intense careers like health information technician, audio/video technician and technical writer.  While these positions may not reside in an ‘IT department’ they are important components of the workforce. These peripheral knowledge workers increase the size of the nation’s tech employment segment by between one million and several million additional workers.

The spirit behind the CS for All proposal is that a good computer science course can teach computational thinking, creativity, abstraction, and precision; skills vital to solving problems in any field. We need these attributes in all of our young people regardless of whether they are writing a line of code, building a cloud data environment, or using CAD software for industrial art design. 

An investment in computer science at the K-12 level, along with solid options for career and technical education in the IT field, gives our young people the head start they need to find their own path in the information age. For some, it will; point them toward the college and post-graduate degrees that lead to our next generation of software engineers.

For many others, it will lead to computing as the new “shop,” teaching students to be the hands-on workforce that understands the ins-and-outs of technology hardware and software, mobile apps and devices, computer operating systems, cybersecurity, and many other skills vital to our knowledge economy.

Silicon Valley companies and their stockholders won’t be the only ones who benefit from CS for All. Students and communities throughout the country will reap rewards. That’s because technology jobs are everywhere. Nearly anyone who has the drive can—and should—have the opportunity to find a place in IT.  

So, as we work to make available computer science for all, let’s make sure to include all that makes up computer science.

Hyman is executive vice president for Public Advocacy at CompTIA.

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