CS and Coding are Fundamental Skills for a 21st Century Workforce

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Coding and CS 21st Century Skills
Photo credit: Franki Hobson

On June 26th, I testified in support of amending Chapter 69, Section 1D, HB2878 (HD3244) – An Act Relative to Coding and Computer Science in Schools – to insert in line 6, after the words “science and technology,” the following words: “computer science and computational thinking, including computer coding.”

Massachusetts employs more than 300,000 people in the tech sector plus close to another 100,000 in tech occupations across other industries, underpinning 20% of the state’s payroll. Add in the support (multiplier) jobs and tech underpins 34% of all jobs, 44% of payroll, and 34% of gross state product in Massachusetts. As our State of the Technology Economy report, The Connected Commonwealth: How the Massachusetts Tech Ecosystem is Creating New Growth Opportunities, illustrates, Massachusetts also has the highest concentration of tech sector jobs nationwide. Tech is driving growth and opportunity across every industry in the Commonwealth.

At the beginning of the decade MassTLC set a goal to create 100,000 new tech sector jobs in Massachusetts by the year 2020, and we’ve been tracking our progress through our annual State of the Tech Economy report. We learned early on that creating the jobs is not a problem. The challenge is filling them.

Companies come to Massachusetts because we have some of the best talent in the world – we just don’t have enough of it. Massachusetts companies are opening offices and shipping jobs around the globe to access the talent that they need to fuel their growth. This represents a lost opportunity for employment and revenue in state.

To provide more actionable insights for our members and policy makers, MassTLC commissioned the Public Policy Center at UMass to develop the Mass Tech Pulse Index to supplement our top down State of the Tech Economy report with real bottom up insights and sentiments from a statistically valid cohort of technology executives.

The Mass Tech Pulse Index, based on a survey of over 150 senior executives, found that executives overwhelmingly (96%) reported that access to a talented workforce is an advantage of doing business in Massachusetts. However, 72% responded that the availability of skilled workers was a challenge in doing business in the state.

According to Burning Glass Technologies, there are over 23,000 open tech jobs in Massachusetts today, and the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education reports that there are 17 jobs for every graduate with a Bachelor’s degree (6 for every Associate’s degree) in the Commonwealth. Tech jobs are good jobs that exist in every industry and pay about twice the state average.

Talent is distributed evenly in populations, but opportunities are not. Fewer than 25 percent of Massachusetts schools even offer computer science and the vast majority of Massachusetts students never take a computer science course. Only about 1 percent of AP tests administered in Massachusetts are in computer science and fewer than 25 percent of these test takers are girls.

Our economic growth and vitality are being constrained by our inability to fill jobs that increasingly involve computational thinking. Our young people are stunted in their ability to reach their full potential because they lack the fundamental tools needed to succeed in today’s world. Coding and CS are fundamental skills that young people need to be successful in a career today where most of the jobs they will have during their lifetime have yet to be created.

In the end, it is a choice. We can prepare our children to continue the Massachusetts legacy of innovation and to be the creators of the future or we can cede this position to somewhere else and let our children just be consumers of someone else’s innovations. Students in all our schools should be given the tools and opportunities they need and our economy will benefit from their success.

MassTLC urges support for An Act Relative to Coding and Computer Science in Schools.