At a joint meeting of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Board of Higher Education, state education leaders took up the issue of access to computer science, a fundamental skill in preparing the Massachusetts workforce for the 21st century economy.
Leaders from industry, K-12 and higher education addressed the joint convening (View video starting at 1:06:45). These leaders included, from industry, Donna Cupelo, President of Verizon New England and chairwoman of Gov. Charlie Baker’s statewide workforce development board. From K-12, Eric Conti, Superintendent of the Burlington Public Schools and President of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents. Also representing K-12 was Julie Hackett, Superintendent of the Taunton Public Schools. And, representing higher education, Fred Martin, Associate Dean of Student Success and Professor of Computer Science at UMass Lowell.
MassTLC CEO Tom Hopcroft, who serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of Education, underscored the importance of tech as a lever for both economic growth and for social equity. (View video starting at 1:29:28). If we fail to make computing more available and accessible to all our students, he noted, too many will be left out of an economy that pays twice the state average and provides expanding career and life opportunities. The result, he continued, would be the creation of two classes: “the creators” who are paid well to envision and build our future, and “the consumer class” which won’t share in the growing career opportunities of wealth creation resulting from our region’s tech leadership.
After discussing the issue, each board unanimously approved a resolution charging each respective Commissioner to convene a working group to study the issue and report back to the boards in June. The working group will be charged with developing a two-part strategy:
- To “enable many more students graduating from Massachusetts public high schools to study computer science/computational thinking as part of MassCore, the recommended program of studies in high school,” and
- To “increase the number of students interested in pursuing computer science as a field of study in postsecondary education and, by extension, those students interested in pursuing careers in technology following graduation from a postsecondary institution.”
While talent is the number one reason companies choose to locate in Massachusetts, accessing enough skilled talent is the number one constraint to company growth once they are here. Immigration is an important part of the talent equation but we cannot import enough talent to address shortage. Talent is distributed evenly in populations but the access and opportunities are not. In order to compete in today’s economy, we need every child to have the exposure, inspiration, access and support needed to participate. The bottom line is that any role that cannot be filled locally will be filled outside our region, making it a regional economic imperative as well as one of social equity.
At MassTLC, we applaud the work of the state’s education leaders to make computing a priority on their agenda.