STEM education – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – is near and dear to my heart. In fact, it was my STEM education that shaped me into the leader and businesswoman I am today. But everyday math and science has advanced to encompass concepts like data science and computer programming, and that means our educational fundamentals should advance along with them.
So, I was pleased to see that last month, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Salesforce pledged $300 million to support an initiative in partnership with the Trump administration to foster computer science education and prepare students for careers in technology.
These same ubiquitous tech giants – Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Salesforce have also invested in an industry-backed organization calledwhich provides free coding lessons and related educational resources. And in June Apple CEO Tim Cook told president Trump, “Coding should be a requirement in every public school” in order to solve the dearth of computer programming skills in this country.
The new fundamentals?
I think Cook is right. Today we have college students graduating without a fundamental knowledge of coding or data, despite the fact that these are the building blocks of how we navigate the world around us. For a long time now I’ve believed that college graduates, whether Computer Science, English Lit or Design majors, should leave school with a basic understanding of coding and data the same way they are taught math fundamentals.
Some have their reservations about these sorts of industry-led efforts. They worry that the companies funding them are only serving their own interests to ensure that they have a plentiful workforce. Or, even more self-serving, that they want to ensure that children learn their branded programming languages or use their software and devices during their formative years.
But the fact is the need is out there – and more and more, so is the desire. At the Mobile Future Forward conference held in Seattle in September, I spoke with a university professor who told me that his machine learning class once attracted only around 40 students, but today it’s topping 400. People taking these classes in machine learning and artificial intelligence – the fields leading the cutting-edge wave of tomorrow’s technologies – are attractive to employers who are scrambling to hire employees who understand these concepts.