The following post is from Brad Smith, General Counsel and Executive Vice President of Legal & Corporate Affairs at Microsoft.
Abril Vela started her final year of high school like a lot of other seniors – giving a lot of thought to what she wants to do after she graduates. Thanks to technology-oriented programs like DigiGirlz, a Microsoft YouthSpark program, and educators who have mentored her over the years, Abril plans to follow her passion and become a computer engineer.
This fall, we want to help make 10 million more moments like hers happen during Computer Science Education week. For this reason, Microsoft on Monday joined Code.org in announcing a nationwide campaign urging schools, teachers and parents across the country to participate in the “Hour of Code” Initiative. Held during Computer Science Education Week (Dec. 9 to Dec. 15), this initiative will help introduce more than 10 million students to computer programming and the exciting careers of the future.
Microsoft wants every American student to have the opportunity to learn computer science, a goal we are supporting through our partnering work in communities, extensive outreach to a broad array of stakeholders and policy advocacy at all levels of government. We are encouraged to see the tech community come together to solve this challenge, and I’m excited to be a founding member of the Code.org board.
As we proposed in our national talent strategy last year, we need to focus as a country on providing the next generation the skills and opportunities they will need to secure a better economic future. Currently, American students face an opportunity divide between the training they are receiving and the skills need to succeed in the workplace. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected approximately 122,000 new job openings each year in computing occupations requiring at least a bachelor’s degree through the end of this decade. Yet nationally, our universities are only producing approximately 51,000 bachelor’s degrees in computer science each year. Further compounding the problem, 9 out of 10 schools do not even offer computer programming classes.
To address these challenges, the public and private sectors must find new and creative ways to partner. As an example, the Senate-passed comprehensive immigration reform bill S.744 includes increased employer fees dedicated to establishing a STEM fund to help states strengthen their talent pipelines. Congress must act to solve our national talent crisis. For its part, the private sector must continue to play an active role through efforts like Code.org.
Microsoft is proud to partner with organizations such as Code.org in order to create opportunities for youth around the world. Through our YouthSpark initiative, we have reached more than 100 million young people in 100 countries in our first year. Providing opportunities in computer science is a key emphasis of YouthSpark. For example, our Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) program is placing computer science engineer volunteers into high school classrooms to increase a school’s capacity to provide computer science classes. This fall, we expanded the TEALS program to reach more than 3,500 students in 70 schools across 12 states. In addition, we support computer science learning via YouthSpark programs including Imagine Cup, Kodu and DigiGirlz, among other efforts.
Building on these efforts, the “Hour of Code” campaign will help students across the country gain a better understanding of computer science through introductory tutorials that can be completed online or through mobile devices. During this week, parents, teachers and employers are encouraged to help engage students of all ages. Participating classrooms will also have a chance to win a variety of prizes for participating, including a full class-set of computers and a video conference call with technology titans such as Bill Gates.
We encourage you join to visit the Hour of Code website for details on how you can join this important and exciting initiative.
To learn more about Microsoft’s commitment to providing opportunities for youth, please visit our YouthSpark Hub.