Computer science is one of the most sought after fields in the American economy. Will there be enough skilled workers to meet the growing need? And will the people who fill these roles be as diverse as ours?
We need the answer to both questions, “Yes!” To get there, we must seriously address the underlying vulnerabilities.
Findings from a recent Gallup survey indicate that students’ interest in computer science far exceeds access to computer science education, particularly among historically disadvantaged populations. Furthermore, most students lack general exposure to the technology sector. This gap between interest and access is a missed opportunity for the nation’s economy as American employers increasingly look for job candidates with skills or a background in computer science.
The Bureau of Labor and Statistics expects the market for computer science professions to grow by 13 percent between 2020 and 2030. Currently, wages for such jobs are more than twice the average annual wage for all other occupations. Extensive access to computer science resources is an important enabling factor that positively affects students’ economic mobility. If we want to achieve more equitable outcomes for our students and their families, we must prioritize providing computer science literacy skills that require high-income jobs.
Evaluate students’ motivations for interest and participation
Amazon Future Engineer, Amazon’s global computer science philanthropic education program, has conducted research from Gallup to better understand student interest and involvement in the field of computer science. The new report Developing the Jobs of the Future: A Study of Student Access and Interest in Computer Science provides a more comprehensive review of the differences between race, gender, location, and socioeconomic status than was previously available. The study also provides essential insights for educators and employers who strive to provide students of all backgrounds with the resources to excel in higher education and to secure much-needed careers in the future.
Examining American students in grades five through twelve reveals that access to scholastic learning opportunities and role models is closely related to students’ persistence in their career journey. Students who have access to computer science classes at school are twice as likely to say that they plan to study the subject in college and that they aspire to land a career in the field. Furthermore, a student with a computer science role model is 10 times more likely to say he or she will pursue a career in computer science than a student who lacks such a role model.
The study also revealed that middle school and high school students overwhelmingly realize the value of computer science knowledge in the US economy. More than 90 percent agree that computer science can be used in many different types of jobs, that computer scientists help people and are able to solve important problems. This suggests that increased access to computer science learning opportunities and social connections among students can affect future talent outcomes.
Arouse students’ curiosity through career exploration
The report’s findings also help us identify the most effective ways to continue to inspire students, support teachers, and ensure that our initiatives have maximum impact and reflect the creativity of teachers who benefit from our programs. We’ve heard the most important requests from our students and educators since we started Amazon Future Engineer. They said, “Help the students understand the career possibilities in a place like Amazon and visualize their journey into the technology industry.” In response, this year we launched Meet an Amazonian, an initiative that supports teachers and helps students secure access to real-world technology, jobs, and role models. The program brings virtual job talks (classroom talk) and fulfillment center tours into the classroom to connect students with a variety of role models and to help revitalize the industry.
The Fulfillment Center’s one-hour tours show students what happens behind the scenes after placing an order on Amazon.com. Students discover how algorithms and machine learning enhance our achievement process. This includes how Amazon employees and technology work together to support customer fulfillment through the selection, packaging, and shipping processes. This initiative helps debunk stereotypes and decode what computer science looks like, ensuring that students see how it fits into everyday life and is even inculcated in popular culture. Available for grades 3 and up, the presentation provides teachers with a toolkit of computer science teachers’ K-12-compliant slides, worksheets, and additional activities.
Since its launch in April, Meet an Amazonian experiences have reached more than 150,000 students from more than 2,000 Title I eligible schools in the United States. Teachers note how these efforts connect students with models and experiences that allow them to see a real future for themselves.
“I signed up for my class for the Amazon Future Engineer Fulfillment Center Virtual Tour because I am always looking for opportunities for my students to do more critical thinking and examine careers outside of the regular careers they are considering,” explains Jill Emery. “It was a great way to broaden their vision and help them see themselves in a different place.”
Expand access to students who lack computer science resources
Students cannot explore what they have not been exposed to. We want them to know how developing computer science skills can help them achieve their career goals, whatever those goals may be.
If you are a school principal or teacher, we invite you to register your students for a virtual tour of the Fulfillment Center. The presentation of the new program is free and open to teachers in all subject areas.