Living in our tech focused region of the world, it seems you can’t swing a mouse in Seattle without slapping a computer scientist in the face. But according to Jane Broom, Microsoft’s director of Community affairs, Microsoft always has a ton of open jobs for coders.
“We can’t find the qualified people to fill those jobs and these jobs are great. Kids coming out of colleges with a CS major can sometimes get jobs that pay $100,000 right out the gate.”
So they’re trying to start at the source and get high school kids interested in coding.
“According to www.code.org, nine out of 10 schools do not teach computer science in their classrooms. One of the statistics that we know here in Washington state is we have about 771 high schools in our state and of those 771 schools, only 35, last year, taught computer science.”
Microsoft helped introduce a program called TEALS into 70 US schools, where working professionals from companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and Nintendo volunteer to co-teach a computer science class with a high school faculty member. I visited an AP Computer Science class at Seattle’s Nathan Hale High School, where students were experiencing a national campaign called Hour of Code. The Hour of code video features celebs like Ashton Kutcher and Shakira, who claim to be two of the approximate six million people who have already spent an hour learning to code through a fun program on the website.
Jane says girls are a big focus.
“We’re trying to highlight role models like Julie Larson-Green, who heads up the Xbox. How cool is that? And try and show these young girls that this is not just something for the boys. A lot of young girls want to work on things that are not necessarily shoot-em-up games. So we’re trying to show that computer science is also fundamental to a lot of the things girls get excited about. Things like solving world hunger, solving poverty, solving new diseases and trying to show that computer science is actually a key component in solving a lot of those problems.”
Nathan Hale Senior, Mulki Mohamed, loves coding and recently saw it integrated into her daily life.
“The last episode of Grey’s Anatomy they were, like, coding. I was like, oh that’s really cool because I could read the code and I was watching Grey’s Anatomy! I was like, this is amazing! It had, like, basic stuff that we were doing like system dot output line and I was like, oh my gosh! I know that!”
Jane hopes to remove the intimidation factor associated with coding.
“I think there are a lot of people that feel like, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t do that. It’s too hard. I’m not a genius.’ But the fact of the matter is, for every Mark Zuckerberg and for every Bill Gates, there are thousands of people who are required to help make those visions come true.”
Nathan Hale student, Winston Hallan-Eames, who plans on studying finance, not computer science, in college, says it’s still a great skill to learn.
“I think anybody can do it. It’s fun once you get going. I think it’s more about the interest than the actual ability. If you want to do it, then you’re going to put more time into it. It’s problem solving; it’s fun to find the solution.”
Click here to do the Hour of Code for yourself!