Early experiences have the ability to inspire us and shape our future.  One early source of inspiration for me was my father, who was the first African-American to receive a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of Pittsburgh.  It was because of him that from a young age, I learned the importance of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).  I witnessed firsthand how my father’s pursuit of science opened doors of opportunity.  Computer Science Education Week, December 8-14, 2014, offers an opportunity for all of us to ask how we can inspire a new generation.  

Microsoft is proud to partner with Code.org, an organization dedicated to expanding participation in computer science, with a series of activities geared toward teachers, students, and parents in celebration of Computer Science Education Week.  In particular, we will help Code.org with its grassroots campaign goal for the week to reach 100 million students globally with “The Hour of Code,” a program that provides a hands-on introduction to computer science.  Specifically, our software is available for tutorials and on November 20, we offered a free training to educators throughout Washington, D.C. on how to set up an “Hour of Code” in their classrooms.  Participating in the Hour of Code campaign and other events taking place around the country give a new generation of students the opportunity to experience computer science.  This week also presents an opportunity for legislators, teachers, parents, and educators to reflect on the importance of computer science in primary and secondary education. 

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Computer science education lays the foundation for many high-paying jobs today and those that will be created in the future.  Across business sectors and around the country, America’s most innovative companies are facing a national challenge in finding the high-skilled workers they need to compete, particularly in fields like computer science.  In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected that between 2010 and 2020, approximately 60 percent of math and science job openings will be in computing professions.  Despite this trend, fewer than 2.4 percent of college students graduate with a degree in Computer Science.  To maintain U.S. competitiveness and innovation, it is imperative that our nation’s young people have access to and pursue the education and skills training needed to adequately prepare for these jobs.  

States should also continue efforts to make computer science education count toward high school graduation credit, a goal Microsoft and Code.org have long advocated.  Last year, Microsoft deployed a team to work state-by-state on this mission.  As a result, ten more states have joined this effort.  We celebrate this achievement, but we do so recognizing that only 25 states and the District of Columba have clear, publicly accessible policies allowing rigorous computer science courses to satisfy existing high school graduation requirements for mathematics or science.  Such policies go a long way to expanding the pursuit of computer science.  States that count computer science as a core graduation requirement see 50 percent more enrollment in their AP Computer Science courses as well as increased participation from underrepresented minorities.  For our nation to succeed and to sustain our global competitiveness, it is time to ensure that U.S. students are prepared to compete for highly technical computer jobs. 

In September, we embarked on the third year of Microsoft YouthSpark, announcing the expansion of technology education efforts to help address the rising tide of global youth unemployment.  As part of that effort, we are nearly doubling the size of our Technology Education And Literacy in Schools (TEALS) program.  TEALS is a grassroots program that recruits, trains, mentors, and places high tech professionals from across the country into high school classes as volunteer teachers.  Through the TEALS program, Microsoft will place software engineers as volunteers in 131 high schools across 18 states and the District of Columbia.  Fourteen schools in our area now have TEALS classrooms, with three new schools added this year in Northern Virginia.     

This Computer Science Education Week, I encourage everyone – legislators, students, and teachers alike – to take part in the Hour of Code, discover the fun of coding and, more importantly, how it can be a catalyst to create and achieve great things.  Everyone starts somewhere.  This week offers the opportunity to get your start in computer science.  To join us in this effort, please visit csedweek.org. 

Humphries is vice president for U.S. government affairs at Microsoft.