Amazon wants to train the computer scientists of tomorrow. To that end, the Seattle retailer today announced that it’ll bring computer science courses to more than 1,000 U.S. high schools in underprivileged communities across all 50 states, as part of its ongoing $50 million investment in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education.
“We want to ensure that every child, especially those from underprivileged communities, has an opportunity to study computer science,” Jeff Wilke, CEO of Amazon’s Worldwide Consumer division, said in a statement.”We are excited more than 1,000 schools will now provide these courses, and look forward to adding 1,000 more schools over the coming months.”
The aforementioned schools will offer classes through the Edhesive K-12 digital curriculum, in addition to preparatory lessons, tutorials, professional development for teachers, digital curricula, and live online support for both teachers and students. Participating students will additionally receive a free AWS Educate membership, which will provide access to computing power in the AWS Cloud.
The effort comes under the umbrella of Amazon Future Engineer, a four-year program launched in November 2018 that seeks to “inspire” and “educate” kids and young adults from “underprivileged, underrepresented, and underserved” communities so they can pursue careers in computer science and coding. (More than 700 of the high schools participating in Amazon Future Engineer have Title I status, a Department of Education designation indicating that at least 40 percent of the student body qualifies as low-income.)
Each year, Amazon Future Engineer aims to recruit 10 million students and to provide over 100,000 budding programmers in over 2,000 high schools access to introductory or advanced placement computer science courses. It also awards 100 students with four-year $10,000 scholarships and offers guaranteed and paid Amazon internships to help them gain work experience. To date, Amazon says it has donated more than $10 million to organizations that promote computer science and STEM education across the country.
Today’s announcement comes after Amazon said it would fund computer science classes in more than 130 New York City area high schools across all five boroughs.
Amazon’s not the only tech giant providing free and discounted computer science education to schoolchildren. In December, Microsoft committed $10 million to nonprofit Code.org for the purpose of “advocating for computer science education policy,” and Microsoft Philanthropies’ long-running TEALS (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools) initiative, which pairs technology professionals with teachers to “co-teach” computer science, has a presence in over 30 states. Facebook has similarly contributed to Code.org and provided free virtual reality classroom kits to public high schools.
In September 2017, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Salesforce each pledged $50 million to a White House plan to boost computer science education in the U.S.
It’s a worthwhile mission, to be sure. The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts a shortfall of 1 million computer science graduates in 2020 — and, according to Amazon, only 8 percent of STEM graduates earn a computer science degree. Moreover, Amazon says that students from underprivileged backgrounds are 8 to 10 times more likely to pursue computer science degree programs if they’ve taken advanced placement computer science courses in high school.
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