Computing Applications

Pathways to Computing Careers

  1. Article
  2. Authors
Bobby Schnabel, John White

In recent years, the national discussion about the importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) has become increasingly prominent.

Accompanying this discussion, some questions have been raised about whether there really is a "STEM problem" when it comes to filling current and future jobs in the U.S. Two things are abundantly clear and critically important: the great majority of the current and foreseeable STEM jobs are in computing and IT; and there is great demand in these areas spread across all sectors of the economy. Whether in Silicon Valley or the nation's heartland, every region is facing rapid growth in demand for workers in computing and information technology-based jobs.

ACM has been at the heart of the U.S. policy discussion regarding computing education and the workforce for a number of years through its Education Policy Committee (ACM EPC). The EPC has played an important role in bringing attention and action to these issues, including a seminal role in the creation of the annual U.S. Computer Science Education Week, and a major role in contributing to the development of the non-profit organization Code.org. Code.org has become the focal point for the community's effort to make computing education ubiquitous in U.S. K–12 schools. Indeed, the organization sponsored the international Hour of Code—an introduction to computing that has reached over 40 million students worldwide.

The EPC's 2010 report Running on Empty: The Failure to Teach K–12 Computer Science in the Digital Age (runningonempty.acm.org) had a significant impact in bringing awareness and energy to these issues. The recently released ACM report, Rebooting the Pathway to Success: Preparing Students for Computing Workforce Needs in the United States (pathways.acm.org), authored by Lisa Kaczmarczyk and Renee Dopplick, is the sequel to Running on Empty. The earlier report focused on K–12 computing education policy and availability, state by state and in aggregate. The Pathways report focuses on IT workforce needs at the U.S. state and national levels, along with examples of successful educational pathways that help meet these needs, and policy recommendations to government and economic leaders.

The workforce analysis in the Pathways report shows there is significant demand for IT workforce professionals in all 50 states. The examples of strategies to address this need illustrate a diverse set of educational approaches that have been successful across a wide spectrum of geographical regions, socioeconomic conditions, and slices of the K–12 educational systems. These examples provide a rich set of starting points for other states and school districts to consider and potentially emulate.

The Pathways report contains a nationwide call to action for every U.S. state to have an education and computing workforce development plan that includes K–12 computer science education and to align state policy, programs, and resources to support the plan. Key new recommendations in the report include: each state's plan should have strategies to fill its computing workforce needs in the growing number of computing-dependent occupations both inside and outside traditional high-technology industries; states and major school districts should adopt education paths for computer science within both academic and career technical education programs; each state's computer science education and computing workforce development plan should include explicit actions for obtaining the full participation of females and other underrepresented populations; and business and government leaders should clearly articulate the importance of the computing field to the economy and to community well-being.

The Pathways report contains a nationwide call to action for every U.S. state to have an education and computing workforce development plan.

Progress on U.S. computing education policies and practices will often be made one community at a time. For this reason, we encourage U.S.-based ACM members to engage in these discussions in your communities, from your perspectives as knowledgeable and well-respected professionals in the field. As these steps regarding computer science education and workforce development unfold in the U.S., many other nations are taking exciting and aggressive measures to position or reposition computing education. As a result, the ACM Education Policy Committee is turning some of its attention to comparing and sharing practices between nations. We welcome all ACM members to share with us their perspectives and opinions on this important topic.

Join the Discussion (0)

Become a Member or Sign In to Post a Comment

The Latest from CACM

Shape the Future of Computing

ACM encourages its members to take a direct hand in shaping the future of the association. There are more ways than ever to get involved.

Get Involved

Communications of the ACM (CACM) is now a fully Open Access publication.

By opening CACM to the world, we hope to increase engagement among the broader computer science community and encourage non-members to discover the rich resources ACM has to offer.

Learn More