Obama Unveils Computer Science for All Initiative

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In an effort to increase access to computer science programs for both the nation’s schools and students, President Barack Obama has unveiled the Computer Science for All Initiative, a program that will invest $4 billion in funding to develop computer science programs and an additional $100 million to go directly to school districts looking to improve and expand their computer science offerings.

The goal of the Initiative is to train and equip teachers in computer science so that they are prepared to encourage their students to get involved in the field. President Obama’s administration sees computer science as a “new basic” skill required to achieve better-paying jobs and greater mobility in a globalized economy. The Initiative would also invest more than $135 million in the National Science Foundation and the Corporation for National and Community Service to train computer science teachers.

Davey Alba of Wired reports that the plan includes commitments from philanthropists and some of the nation’s biggest tech companies to bolster students’ computer science training such as Microsoft, Google, and Qualcomm. Apple promises to expand computer science-related opportunities for young people, and especially those in historically underrepresented groups, through workshops and curriculum-development. Facebook said it would invest in outreach efforts to connect with underrepresented communities.

As reported by Voice of America, Obama said that 90% of parents want computer science taught at their children’s school, “yet right now, only about a quarter of out K-12 schools offer computer science. Twenty-two states don’t even allow it to count toward a diploma.”

The White House is aware of the soaring demand for computer science skills in the private sector. Jobs in computing are increasing at double the rate of other types of employment, and, by 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be 1 million more computer science-related jobs than existing qualified graduates to fill them.

Additionally, 51% of all STEM jobs are estimated to be in computer science and that the White House needs around 10,000 professionals to help manage its IT infrastructure and cybersecurity. “Providing access to computer science is a critical step for ensuring that our nation remains competitive in the global economy and strengthens its cybersecurity.”

Ken Yeung, writing for Venture Beat, reports that the Computer Science for All initiative is not the first time President Obama has embraced the computer science field and encouraged schools and Congress to do more to expand computer-related opportunities and training for young Americans. His administration created the White House Science Fair, started the Educate to Innovate program, increased funding for states and school districts that offer computer science coursework and became the first sitting president to learn how to code.

Many of President Obama’s policies have lain the groundwork for what he hopes will contribute to a more secure, equitable and innovative America, though he himself will not see the maturation of many of these initiatives while president. The president interprets the nation’s investment in STEM fields as a key factor in creating a more competitive American economy down the road.