For the past 6 months, I’ve been participating in the NYC Tech Talent Pipeline Advisory Board, a partnership between New York City and technology companies in New York. From the press release announcing this board’s formation:
Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced 14 initial industry commitments to support the delivery of technology education, training, and job opportunities to thousands of New Yorkers as part of the Administration’s NYC Tech Talent Pipeline initiative. Announced by the Mayor in May 2014, the NYC Tech Talent Pipeline is a first-of-its-kind, $10 million public-private partnership designed to support the growth of the City’s tech ecosystem and prepare New Yorkers for 21st century jobs. The commitments were announced at today’s inaugural convening of the NYC Tech Talent Pipeline Advisory Board, during which Mayor de Blasio and 25 executives representing the City’s leading companies came together to help define employer needs, develop technology training and education solutions, and deliver quality jobs for New Yorkers and quality talent for New York’s businesses.
The board has been working since it was convened to devise, fund, and institute programs that train New Yorkers in the technology skills needed to drive innovation by businesses which operate here in NYC. And yesterday Mayor Bill de Blasio had a big announcement to make: within 10 years, every public school in NYC will offer computer science education.
I’m not going to belabor the obvious point that educating New Yorkers in technology skills is a win-win scenario. What is so great about this unprecedented commitment to computer science education is that it brings these benefits to all young children in New York.
I started programming at a very young age. I went to computer camp when I was 7. I took computers apart and tried to make them better. I was lucky enough to be exposed to computer science early, and to have a father who encouraged and helped me when I was young. That early experience made a huge difference in my life and played a large role in where I am today. But I was a rare exception, and that’s not how it should be.
Learning computer science requires access to a computer, which back then was not ubiquitous, but today, everyone has one in their pocket. It’s high time to adapt to this new reality and to stop thinking of computer science as an elective suitable for a small slice of the population. There are many reasons to expect students from all backgrounds to take to computer science with gusto. Software provides immediate gratification, which is great for fostering excitement in learning. It requires very little capital to write software, so anyone with dedication should be able to build something great. But it’s hard to do well, so developing understanding and excitement early makes a big difference. We need to give kids a chance to love CS before they hear or assume that they’re not the right type of person to be a software engineer.
I fully expect this program to lead to huge, positive changes in the lives of the children of NYC, and to bring to the companies that need software engineers a large, vital, diverse pool of them.