A new report from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation has highlighted the importance of computer science education in schools across the country, arguing that the subject needs to be taken from being considered an elective course to being looked at as a core science course on par with the traditional high school subjects such as chemistry and biology.
Authors Adam Nager and Robert Atkinson suggest in their report, "The Case for Improving U.S. Computer Science Education," that computer science is an educational tool that can be used to increase critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity. In addition, they say computer skills and competencies are in high demand among employers in a number of fields.
The pair state that computer science offers students access to "broadly transferable" core concepts which students can then take and apply to a large number of problems in cross-disciplinary pursuits. They go on to say that the topic offers students the opportunity to gain skills in the areas of computational literacy and problem-solving that are necessary in the current job market, not only for computer science jobs, but also for those that require "double-deep" skills.
According to the report, growth in the IT job market has increased by 36% in the last decade, with demand rising at an even faster pace. However, there are not enough skilled IT professionals to meet the demand, which has caused a STEM shortage. In total, there are more than 545,000 positions open that require technology skills, many of which look for skills involving the ability to solve problems with a computer.
The report says that 81% of those who major in computer science are able to find jobs closely related to their fields. Even during the recession there were two job openings for every unemployed IT worker. Currently, unemployment in computer occupations is down to 2.5%.
Over the next ten years, job growth in the field is expected to continue to increase by around 50,000 jobs per year. Code.org estimated in 2011 that 1.4 million jobs would in computer science would need to be filled by 2020, but only 400,000 students would be educated in the topic.
They suggest that policymakers consider a change in school curriculum to shift the focus of traditional technology classes to the core concepts of computer science in primary and secondary schools, while also putting additional resources into the training and recruitment of high-quality computer science teachers.
The pair goes on to state that states should be allowed to count computer science as a math or science requirement. They would also like to see a higher number of STEM-related public high schools be created in order to offer more students that hold an interest in computer science to freely explore the subject.
In their final suggestion, the duo say universities should be offered incentives for the expansion of their computer science offerings and put more of their focus into keeping students who are interested in majoring, minoring, or taking courses in computer science.