Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that by 2020 there will be 1.4 million new computer science jobs—but only 400,000 computer science students. Maybe your business has experienced the lack of qualified candidates yourself. The problem stems from the lack of exposure high school students have to these potential career paths. In many schools, even if classes in computer sciences or computer programming exist, students may not feel like they have a reason to take them—even if they're using cellphones, tablets, and other technology that exists because of programming.
As a recent Boston Globe article points out, "College graduates who code can start out making close to six figures. If we were all 17 again, wouldn't we all grow up to become programmers?" But computer science isn't a field high schoolers are likely to pursue unless they see it can lead to a feasible—and exciting—career. Here are a few ways you and your employees can spark interest in the workforce's next generation.
Bring your expertise to the classroom
Microsoft started its TEALS (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools) program, which places computer scientists from across the tech industry in high schools across the country, either in person or via Microsoft Lync. Working side-by-side with teachers, these volunteers work to help both students and teachers build their coding literacy.
TEALS began with one school, 12 students, and one volunteer its first year. Whether or not your business has computer scientists, you have a wealth of skills and knowledge among your employees that you can share with students at any level. Early exposure to career options for students can expose them to what options exist for them, while actually volunteering in a class can give high school students real-world context.
In tech, it's a way for you to show students the breadth of career opportunities that computer science offers, including games and digital application development—not just IT.
Host students at your business
By allowing students to visit your company, they can get a firsthand look at what your industry is like. Set up the day so that students can meet with several people within your company, and get a feel for their roles. Seeing potential career paths in actual real-world settings can broaden students' ideas of what's possible.
Alternatively, you could visit local schools to give an overview of what you do, and give students the opportunity to ask questions. Or, you can set up internship programs to give a student a more in-depth experience actual hands-on learning. For a less time-intensive commitment, you can set up job-shadowing days so students can observe what a particular job actually entails, shattering any misconceptions they may have had.
Connect with schools in your area and discuss what opportunities exist, whether it's volunteering your time in class weekly, or spending one day giving students a high-level introduction to what it is you do. By giving back, you can help prepare the next generation of leaders—and your future employees.
Have you or your employees shared your skills with younger generations? Share your experiences in the comments below!