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Oracle News | June 13, 2016

Coding Skills Aren’t Just for Programmers

By: Guest Author

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By Alison Derbenwick Miller

Given that technology drives today’s global economy, it should be no surprise that coding skills—once required for only highly specific, technical careers—are now needed for everything from scientific research to set design. In fact, 20% of all US career-track jobs—those that pay at least $15 per hour—now require coding skills, according to a new study conducted by Oracle Academy and Burning Glass Technologies.

The number of US jobs that require coding skills will grow 12% faster than the labor market overall over the next 10 years, the study finds. And more than half of such job openings will be in finance, manufacturing, healthcare, and other industries outside of technology.

Yet only 2% of all students in the College Board’s Advanced Placement program took computer science courses last year. Clearly, there’s a disconnect. Why aren’t more students studying computer science when those skills create so many opportunities? And how do we change that?

Give students the tools they need to succeed. Although things are changing for the better, most US high schools still don’t offer computer science classes, and many states still don’t offer academic credit to high school students who have taken CS courses. All students, everywhere, must have access to a computer science education and get recognition for their work. 

Students also need to be learning and developing the prerequisite and corollary skills for modern success, including math, computational thinking, problem-solving, team collaboration, creativity, and communications (including writing). As stewards of our children’s futures, we must focus on delivering high-quality, modern education, not just graduating students.

Support innovative education. I had the great pleasure of spending last week at the inaugural WeTeach_CS Summit in Austin, Texas. Organized and hosted by the University of Texas Austin Center for STEM Education, WeTeach_CS brought together nearly 300 educators who are or will be teaching computer science in Texas public schools to give them hands-on experience with curricula, tools, and techniques to bring computer science to life in their classrooms and engage diverse groups of students. I didn’t find a single person who wasn’t inspired to take what they had learned back to their students.

I was particularly honored to present the inaugural Computer Science Change Maker and Computer Science Mini-Grant Awards, created with the UT Austin Center for STEM Education and sponsored by Oracle Academy as part of Oracle’s commitment to the White House Computer Science for All Initiative. Both the Change Maker awards and the Mini-Grants recognize and support educators in Texas who are advancing computer science education in innovative ways. Oracle Academy was delighted to recognize Joy Schwartz, Henry Vo, Juan Orozco, and Margaret Dominguez.

Separately, Oracle is due to break ground in August on a state-of-the-art facility to host an innovative public high school, called d.tech, at our Redwood Shores, California, headquarters campus. D.tech will incorporate advanced technology, design thinking, and problem-solving skills into an integrated curriculum.

Teach the teachers. The current shortage of computer science graduates affects more than industry; it also affects education. Even if we address every other challenge, we simply do not have enough computer science teachers to fill the CS pipeline. 

Oracle Academy is partnering with educators worldwide to give them the tools, curriculum, skills, professional development, and practices they need to teach high-quality computer science with confidence. As part of our CS for All commitment, this year we plan to double the number of US teachers we train, as well as continue our support for programs such as WeTeach_CS and the Computer Science Teachers Association annual conference. 

Teachers are the most important agents of change in education; a good teacher can change a child’s life. Passion for computer science is transferable, and the spark a teacher places in a student’s imagination today will grow, creating our future innovators, entrepreneurs, and leaders.

Help students and their parents understand the opportunity. The study we released with Burning Glass last week found that jobs that require programming skills pay $22,000 more each year than jobs that don’t. Entering the job market with computer science skills makes one more qualified for more high-paying jobs across industries. Period. 

But bringing about change is a long-term project—it takes 20 years to educate a computer scientist from pre-school to job market. We all have a part to play. Share your knowledge, experience, and resources with your own students, teachers, and counselors.

At Oracle, we’ve been committed to ensuring computer science for all for more than two decades. Will you join us?

Alison Derbenwick Miller is vice president of Oracle Academy.

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