A widening technology skills gap is putting a burden on companies who desperately need workers, according to a 2017 report from TechRepublic. The tech industry, in particular, is having trouble finding top talent. The skills gap is attributed, in part, to the need to build foundational skills as part of the education journey. There are more than a half-million open technology positions in the United States. Research from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that by 2020, there will be a million more jobs available in computing than qualified applicants who can fill those roles.
A large percentage of today’s workforce did not have access to computer science education during their formative years. In an effort to help close the void, dozens of programs have been implemented over the past several years to teach adults foundational computer science skills, helping them land jobs in fields that desperately need workers. While this works for some, it does not appear to be aggressively closing the skills gap.
Why is this task proving to be so challenging? It’s likely because we’re tackling the issue of the skills gap in reverse. While current adult education programs are a substantial asset to the workforce, children also need to learn tech skills. Children are the future of our workforce, and by teaching them foundational skills at an early age, they will be better prepared with 21st-century workforce skills.
To best prepare students for the workforce, it is imperative that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) curriculum be supported and implemented. The government has taken note of the need for STEM curriculum. Legislators are trying to respond to needs of school districts nationwide although political challenges to education funding remain an issue. Currently, only six states give all K-12 students access to computer science courses.
Introducing Tech Skills at an Early Age
If we are to combat this shortfall, learning STEM skills at an early age must be prioritized in the classroom. In-classroom computer science platforms work to build foundational workforce skills early. This helps plan for the future through specialized education geared toward STEM and computer science, developing the skills in highest demand for the future workforce.
These proactive measures will ensure that students are engaged in learning opportunities that develop problem-solving and analytical skills that will maximize their potential, not only throughout their education, but also in their future careers. A solid foundation of computer science early in a student’s education process builds confidence in fundamental skills and core concepts. Learning skills in computer science and coding instills resilience in students, as well as teaches skills like creative problem solving and successful failure. With a progression of skills and continued use of computer science fundamentals, students build interest and a comfort level not only with tackling harder challenges as their education continues, but with applying computer science concepts to other fields of study.
Computer Science Taught Through Engaged Learning
Utilizing an engaged learning model to build foundational skills in computer science and provide progressively challenging opportunities to enhance those skills are key elements to empowering educators to accelerate computer science in the classroom. Starting at the foundational level, leveraging multiple pillars of instruction and incorporating project-based learning, helps students build the STEM skills they need. Understanding the language of computer science and how it is used across different kinds of technology platforms is a way for students to gain confidence in their knowledge and abilities. The foundation built in their youth will help students build strong skills after primary education and into high school, college and beyond.
Computer Science Is More Than Coding
Computer science is often used synonymously with coding — but coding is only one aspect of computer science. Computer science encompasses foundational principles in problem-solving and analytical skills through software, hardware and the safe and ethical use of technology. Students learn in a variety of ways and computer science foundational skills can be taught through many different methods of engagement. It is important that educational platforms take this into account. Making sure that students learn the way that’s best for them is important to not only teach foundational skills, but also to keep them interested in learning. Computer science is more than coding, and additional pillars like digital citizenship and hardware provide educators the tools to engage students of all learning styles.
- Coding – The most common way to introduce students to computer science is through coding. Coding is a great way to engage visual, hands-on students with project-based learning and computational thinking behind a computer. Students build problem-solving and analytical skills through interactive learning experience with coding projects.
- Hardware – Educators are able to actively engage tactile, hands-on learners through interactive, project-based hardware lessons. Allowing students to combine hardware exploration with computational thinking strategies reinforces computer science principles, reaching students who might not have the same interest or curiosity solely working in front of a computer screen.
- Unplugged – Computer science is everywhere. Unplugged activities allow educators to engage students whether they have access to computers or not. Encouraging students to look for and practice foundational computer science elements through creative activities, creates additional methods to reinforce computer science principles.
- Digital Citizenship – As students learn to navigate the digital world, it’s imperative they learn how to be safe and active participants. By teaching digital citizenship, educators instill students with the foundational skills needed to safely navigate technology in their daily lives. With a focus on cyber ethics, cyber safety and other STEM initiatives, educated and engaged students will bring an informed and ethical background into the future of computer science and technology.
With so many demands on the education system and our students to succeed in the future of the digital world, it’s important that educators find a good partner to help propel this initiative further.