WSJ Op-Ed: Students Lacking in Computer Programming Skills

American education just isn’t getting it right. 

That’s according to Kirk McDonald, a Manhattan ad tech company president, who in a Wall Street Journal op-ed today argued that recent graduates aren’t equipped with the computer science skills necessary in today’s world.

The op-ed is written as a letter to college graduates and regrets that “cool, rapidly growing” tech companies such as his probably won’t hire them. 

This isn’t because I don’t have positions that need filling. On the contrary, I’m constantly searching for talented new employees, and if someone with the right skills walked into my office, he or she would likely leave it with a very compelling offer. The problem is that the right skills are very hard to find. And I’m sorry to say it, dear graduates, but you probably don’t have them.

According to McDonald, there are eight times as many high-school football teams in the U.S. as there are high schools that teach advanced placement computer science classes. American colleges, he says, will in the next decade produce 40,000 graduates with bachelor’s degrees in computer science — 80,000 short of the number of computing jobs that will require such degrees during that same time period.

It’s time to start addressing this crisis. States should provide additional resources to train and employ teachers of science, technology, engineering and math, as well as increase access to the latest hardware and software for elementary and high-school students. Companies—particularly those like mine that depend heavily on information technology—need to join the effort by sponsoring programs that help schools better train graduates to work in a demanding industry. But there’s one more piece of the puzzle that’s missing, and it’s the one over which you have the most control: you.

McDonald says that students should be fluent in basic computer coding — even if their dream jobs are in fields seemingly unrelated to programming. He suggests that students acquaint themselves with programming languages such as APIs and Python … and then boast those skills on their resumes.

Employers across the country are encouraging schools to enhance their STEM programs in order to prove McDonald wrong. 

That effort is alive and well here, but critics say Hawaii’s schools could do a better job of better equipping local students with the skills they need to land high-paying jobs. Check out our past coverage here

— Alia Wong

(Photo courtesy of hackNY.)

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