Technology education gets boost from industry leaders; workforce demand drives calls for increased training

Yesterday we wrote about the challenges Washington’s colleges and universities face as they try to satisfy demands for computer science education. Today, the Seattle Times reports on a major tech industry call for the federal government to increase K-12 tech education.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi were among the supporters, who also included Apple and Facebook executives, as well as leaders from traditional businesses.

“We ask you to provide funding for every student in every school to have an opportunity to learn computer science,” the letter reads. The coalition that organized the letter urges the federal government to provide $250 million in funding for such education.

And the private sector plans to back up its request with its own funding commitment (see more on this here).

Supporters of the letter also committed to invest $48 million into computer-science education efforts, including a $23 million contribution to [a nonprofit group that trains teachers to teach computer science].

The article reports on the industry’s struggles to recruit qualified workers.

Many open jobs that are being created require computer-science training, supporters say, and those jobs are lucrative.

Seattle’s tech companies are constantly trying to hire enough qualified workers…

The Lens also reports on the need for postsecondary education in the state. The report describes Northeastern University’s decision to open a campus in Seattle that focuses on graduate education and examines the use of data to drive academic programming.

Colleges are increasingly looking at the particular skills employers seek, using data analytics to mine thousands of job listings. They’re using tools rich with timely job market data like LinkedIn and Burning Glass plus an array of other data sources to inform decisions on curriculum, program expansion and even new campuses.

In our foundation report, we highlighted the widening skills gap being reported by employers, drawing heavily on research conducted for the Washington Roundtable by the Boston Consulting Group. BCG found,

The gap between the skills needed by employers and those possessed by potential employees poses a significant challenge to the economic health of both our state and our nation… [E]mployers in Washington state express increasing concerns regarding their ability to find employees with the requisite skills to fill available job openings here. While these concerns are most pronounced in the computer science, engineering and health care professions, their impact is felt by a wide range of companies – large and small – around the state.

Closing the gap will require a sustained commitment by policymakers. Over the last two years, legislators made progress in promoted increased K-12 education funding and reform, as well as expanding access to higher education. The challenges, however, are both immediate and enduring. Learn more about how the Opportunity Washington roadmap can help policymakers meet the challenge here.