When I arrived in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1976, the burgeoning tech industry that we know today was just taking shape.
It was an exciting time where everyone was looking to start something new and share ideas that would eventually create opportunities for people all over the world. I was part of a small crowd of people that shared a similar point of view. It was a bit of groupthink that emanated in the industry back then, all on the shoulders of what happened at Xerox PARC.
Computer science was barely taught in research universities until the mid-1970’s let alone offered in K-12 schools. You really had to seek out groups of people with similar interests and learn on the job about what was possible with technology.
Fast forward almost 40 years and we have seen a huge shift. Technology is now applied to almost every industry and part of every career. However, many schools lack the resources to adequately prepare students for jobs that are available today and for the workforce of the future.
Computer science drives job growth and innovation throughout our economy and society. In fact, Code.org estimates that California currently has more than 80,000 open computing jobs — growing at 4.2 times the state average. While California is one of only 25 states where students can count computer science for credit towards high school graduation, only 311 of the state’s more than 9,700 schools teach computer science.
We have a huge opportunity to support the next generation. That is why Computer Science Education week is an important reminder that we need to do more and find ways that we can all come together provide resources for our students that help prepare them for the future.
The Hour of Code is a global movement with a goal of reaching 100 million students this year. The initiative is to participate in a one-hour introduction to computer science, designed to demystify code and show that anybody can learn the basics. This is a great opportunity for parents, teachers and schools to increase access to computer science education for their students and generate excitement for science, technology, engineering and math.
At Microsoft, we have been a long-time supporter of the Hour of Code movement and are working with schools throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and across the country to help them participate. Our employees are volunteering to teach students some of the basics and help them get excited about computer science.
Students in the area whose schools aren’t able to host their own events can still get involved by signing-up to participate in an Hour of Code or attend one of the workshops we are hosting at the Microsoft Store at Westfield Valley Fair in Santa Clara.
A celebration of national events for one week and one hour of coding is a great starting point, but it isn’t enough to meet the needs of our students. At Microsoft, we recently expanded our Technology Education and Literacy in Schools program (TEALS) to 24 schools in Northern California, bringing the total to 30 schools in California and 131 nationally. TEALS is part of our global YouthSpark initiative to empower young people with new opportunities and develop skills to help them succeed. The TEALS program is a unique public-private partnership that brings passionate computer science professionals into the classroom as volunteer teachers in districts unable to meet their students’ computer science needs.
It is great to see the tech industry come together this week as we all rally behind this great initiative. Just remember that everyone starts somewhere and hopefully for many students in the area, these opportunities will help them start today.
Parents, teachers and student can learn more at Hour of Code.
Dan’l Lewin is Microsoft corporate vice president of technology and civic engagement.