Tech Companies Work to Combat Computer Science Education Gap

9 out of 10 schools in the U.S. do not offer computer science classes.

Douglas Poland teaches an AP computer science class at Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn, Va. As a part of Microsoft's TEALS program, professional software engineers help teach the class.
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Kasun said skills students develop while learning computer science can help them find careers not only in information technology and software engineering, but also in games and digital application development, data analytics and cyber security.

By 2018, for example, there are expected to be as many as 190,000 unfilled positions in the data analytics field alone, says Jim Goodnight, chief executive officer of the data analytics company SAS.

"There's a huge, huge demand for people with these particular skills, the ability to handle and work with large amounts of data to do the analytics, to do forecasting and prediction," Goodnight says. "And there's just a tremendous shortage right now. Every company out there is really interested in analytics -- they want people with analytical talent."

As a way to reach more students, SAS helped institute a program at North Carolina State University which admits about 80 students each year to learn how to use the SAS analytics software and gain day-to-day work experience in the field, Goodnight says.

"The thing that you want to do and the jobs you want to pursue, in whatever industry, software is a big piece," Kasun told Poland's introductory computer science class. "If you love football, great. You can do data analytics and make tremendous advancements. The career opportunities are absolutely huge."

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Although computer programming is a science by nature, it's the challenge, creativity and unpredictability involved in learning how to code that drew many of Poland's students to his class.

"It's a microcosm of the whole school," Poland says. "There's someone from just about every subgroup. You have students working with students they wouldn't normally associate with."

For students who are more artistically inclined, Poland says, designing games and applications is appealing as a creative outlet.

Jeanette Forbes, a senior in Poland's AP class, says it's fulfilling to see a game she designed run well. But while traditional games typically require the player to achieve a goal or complete an objective, Forbes says she approaches the task a bit differently.

"I like to work on plot and how it feels to play, rather than doing main objectives and goals," she says.

Jenny Xing, on the other hand, says she's more drawn to the software development aspect of computer science. Now a freshman at the University of Virginia studying computer science, Xing compares software development to working "behind the scenes" and says she enjoys thinking analytically to develop software.

"Just being in a computer science class gives you an advantage not only in college but also in life. Even if you don't like what you're doing in the computer math class, at least you're exposed to it," Xing says. "You have math and biology and all the sciences, but computer science is a field of its own, so just knowing a little bit of it puts you ahead."

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