According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as many as 1.4 million new computer science jobs could soon be available in the United States, but only 400,000 students will be enrolled in such programs at the nation’s universities. This disparity is often referred to as the STEM gap. Only 1 out of 10 high schools in the U.S. offer computer science programs. And, in a sign that the national education system is far from modernized to meet the demands of the 21st century economy, 25 states still do not even allow computer science classes to count toward high school graduation.
Computer science-related jobs are growing at twice the national average, but there is a huge gap between STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) related jobs and the number of young people who are studying to qualify for them. And this gap is hitting urban and minority students much harder than other populations. Expanding STEM education opportunities in minority communities is one key to helping young people rise out of poverty and filling the job gap.
To that end, #YesWeCode, a joint partnership of Dream Corps Unlimited and Thrive Networks, advocates for STEM inclusion and wider access to computer science education across the country. Co-founded by Van Jones, Amy Henderson and Cheryl Contee, the nonprofit ties technology and social justice together, and emphasizes the expansion of computer science education for urban and at-risk youth.
Established last summer, #YesWeCode already has a bevy of corporate partners, including Facebook, Ford Motor Co., Google and Comcast. Its overall mission is to act as a “catalyzer and connector,” and lead in raising awareness about computer science education among students. Part of the organization’s agenda involves a robust schedule of hack-a-thons. The most recent event, which took place in Detroit, aimed to reach students with latent skills but who otherwise would not consider a career in computer programing.
“Detroit has a reputation as a ‘bankrupt’ city, but its renaissance is driving a growth in technology,” says Michael Nobleza, deputy director of #YesWeCode. “I was inspired by the resilience that the city is showing.”
Nobleza was also inspired by watching students work together with Google engineers and developers “during this weekend of pure science.” He added, “[I] hope that these kids can achieve their dreams and capitalize on future opportunities.”