Yesterday, President Obama released the 2017 budget with line items to support his ‘Computer Science For All’ initiative. The line items include $4 billion in funding for states and $100 million directly for school districts to expand K-12 CS by training teachers, expanding access to high-quality instructional materials, and building effective regional partnerships.
The White House published a blog post with key information and stats about ‘Computer Science For All’. There are two major points in the blog post that resonated with me based on our interactions with 1,000s of students, teachers, role models, and industry leaders.
The first is that the blog’s author mentions that CS is important not just for the tech sector but for every industry from transportation to healthcare to education to financial services. Our role models echo this sentiment – with many of them citing the need for programming skills despite being in careers not traditionally categorized as tech jobs. For example, Diane Thompson is our Climate Scientist who studies the impact of climate change on coral reefs. Diane earned a PHD in Marine Biology. During her interviews with us, she stated that she wished she had taken programming classes in high school or college. While on the job, she had to teach herself Python in order to perform her research.
The second is the author’s mention that tech careers are exciting and fun! I couldn’t agree more as I discovered the joy of building software products 16 years ago and have never looked back. But we need to help kids find careers that fit their own values, interests, and definition of fun. This begins by exposing them to the types of CS jobs that are available. Seeing careers firsthand not only shows kids the applicability of their CS lessons but can also help them find a best-fit career that motivates them to do well in school. On the CS front, our role models include a CTO, a Game Developer, a Director of Business Intelligence, a Software Developer, and a Spacecraft Flight Software Engineer. They have the commonality of using CS in their jobs but they each work on very different products in very different work environments. How great would it be to combine CS lessons for all with CS career exploration for all? Then kids could have a better chance of finding careers that meet their own definition of fun!