Steve Vinter, Engineering Director at Google and Chair of the Tech Hub Collaborative’s Talent Working Group, is working with a team of tech executives, teachers, and education thought leaders to make a push to significantly improve the computer science talent pipeline in Massachusetts.  It’s come to be common knowledge that the future of the tech sector—an important economic driver for the state—rests on high-skilled workers.  Well, Steve and his team have broken down the talent question further to identify the priority of computing education, and they are doing something about it.

 Last month, I attended a presentation that Steve delivered at Fitchburg State University to the Governor’s Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) Advisory Council Meeting.  The goal of STEM is to ensure that all students are educated in these fields, which will enable them to pursue post-secondary degrees or careers in these areas, as well as raise awareness of the benefits associated with an increased statewide focus on STEM.  Here You can read more can see the slide deck STEM and Computing in MA.  It was all about the immediate and future need for a workforce skilled in computing and the urgency of teaching middle school and high school students the basics and exciting them to pursue further computer science education.   

The December 13th presentation was really eye-opening for the information and facts presented.  For example, national data shows the largest share of future STEM jobs will be in computing, but that is the least pursued STEM field of study today. 

Moreover, while Massachusetts K-12 education generally does a great job at teaching to recommended  standards for computer literacy (keyboarding, email, spreadsheets, etc), it needs to significantly approve its approach  around computing—those skills like coding/programming that actually empower students to lead the next-generation of tech innovation. 

In fact, only the state’s voc-tech education system has some standard “clusters” of computing studies.   But that’s not nearly enough.  The numbers are stark: of the 400 high schools, 78 are voc-tech, and of those, there are only 16 programs teach computer programming and web development.

These barriers—along with a lack of certifications and licensing requirements for computer science teachers–lead to a shortage of quality K-12 computing education opportunities and severely limits the number of students who have any experience with computer science heading into college. 

During his presentation, Steve proposed solutions to improve the K-12 computing education provided in the state, including: new recommended computer science standards: updated curriculum: professional development and licensure for CS teachers;  and expanded outreach to further raise awareness.  

The Lt. Governor and council members were extremely receptive to the arguments and recommendation made during Steve’s presentation and many were interested in learning more.  It’s great momentum for the Tech Hub to build on to further advance K-12 computing education in Massachusetts.  The state is already a tech and education forerunner in so many ways and purposefully strengthening CS education as proposed would enable the Commonwealth to pull even more weight as a global leader and innovator in these arenas.