Teaching Java Prepares Students for Next Generation Workforce

If you are responsible for setting or influencing the strategy for STEM, Computer Science (CS), or Career and Technical Education (CTE) curriculum, you might struggle to understand what industry needs and exactly how to prepare your students for the workforce. And as coding becomes increasingly more critical as a foundational skill, how do you decide which programming languages will provide the most employment opportunities for your students, especially when there are so many opinions out there about the most popular technologies? When we shared this Couragion Java Infographic (pictured also above) with our partner schools one of our amazing CTE champions responded, “This reinforces our strategies.” I hope it helps you as well!

While there are several studies regarding which programming language skills hiring entities want, we like the 2016 study conducted by New Relic and Indeed due to its huge sample size. In this study, Indeed reviewed 16 million job openings to determine which programming languages were mentioned most frequently as job requirements. Java was the clear winner - with 2,992 mentions per million listings - and this is more than the next 9 mentioned programming languages combined. According to Terence Chiu, vice president at Indeed, “It is not surprising that Java is such a popular programming language. It’s been around for a long time, runs in many computing environments, and has advantages of readability, scalability, and robustness.” I can attest to Java being around a long time as I have a Java t-shirt from the late ‘90s still in my drawer from my time distributing Sun (now Oracle) products when I worked at GE.

Job demand is one way to understand key technologies, but another important angle is what developers are using on the job. Stack Overflow conducted a Developer Survey in 2016 that included responses from over 50K developers across the globe. In fact, they proclaim it’s the most comprehensive developer survey ever conducted. The survey asks developers about what they build, which technologies they use, which jobs they hold, and the education they’ve received. Interestingly 69% of developers today are self-taught! But with your help – that will change! As Stack Overflow puts it “JavaScript is the most commonly used programming language on earth.” JavaScript emerged as one of the three core technologies of World Wide Web for content production. Initially only utilized by Front-End developers, even Full Stack and Back-End developers are more likely to use it than any other language today.

Since we are curious people, we wanted to understand what secondary schools are teaching today. So Couragion, with generous support from the National Science Foundation, conducted primary research around K-12 CS education. We were excited to find that Java and JavaScript were the two most popular programming languages being taught today by our CS educator respondents. Unfortunately, we saw disadvantages in access among regions with higher proportions of students of color or poverty levels. Here’s what we learned in numbers:

  • 53% of schools offer Java, while 42% of schools offer JavaScript
  • 57% of private schools and 52% of public schools offer Java
  • 45% of public schools and 32% of private schools offer JavaScript
  • Regions with higher populations of students of color offered Java 6% less
  • Regions with higher populations of students in poverty offered Java 17% less

What Should You Be Teaching?

Our vote based on the data is to opt for teaching your students Java and JavaScript. If you are already teaching them – congrats and keep it up! If you aren’t, here are some curriculum resources and considerations:

  1. Oracle has a great website with several resources and recommendations for younger learners.
  2. Greenfoot offers free software, a book, and an instructor community, all focused on teaching and learning Java.
  3. BlueJ is a free Java Development Environment designed for beginners.
  4. If you are looking for JavaScript resources, check out Khan Academy’s offerings.
  5. Keep abreast of reports that give insight into what hiring entities are looking for and what developers are using in their day-to-day jobs. Look not only for the most frequently mentioned languages, but also consider the year-over-year growth rates. A programming language with a large growth rate may indicate an up and coming language that will be very important in the future. In recent reports, PHP appears to be falling out of favor (especially in the enterprise) as programming languages like Node and Angular emerge.

We’ll continue to keep an eye on things – check back for more infographics and insights in this series!

Melissa RisteffComment