- As computer science jobs continue opening with too few college graduates possessing the necessary skills, Amazon announced Thursday its Amazon Future Engineer initiative, which will help "inspire, educate and train children and young adults from underserved and low-income communities to pursue careers in computer science," according to a news release.
- The initiative includes coding camps, online lessons, and funding for intro and Advanced Placement computer science courses for more than 100,000 underprivileged youth in 2,000 of the nation's low-income high schools, as well as 100 four-year, $10,000 annual college scholarships with guaranteed internships at Amazon for students from underserved communities pursuing computer science degrees.
- “Among Black and Hispanic students, those who take AP computer science in high school are up to 8 times more likely to take computer science in college, and among women, they are 10 times more likely to do so — yet most high schools don’t offer these courses,” Jeff Wilke, CEO of Amazon Worldwide Consumer, said in the news release. “Computer science skills are some of the most in-demand in the modern economy, and we have created Amazon Future Engineer because we believe young people from all backgrounds should have help from childhood to career so they can have a future in this highly paid, rapidly-growing field."
Amazon's announcement comes almost two months after Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos announced he and his wife would pledge $2 billion to form a network of preschools in low-income communities and fund nonprofits that help homeless families. This latest effort further expands those goals of helping students and families in underserved communities.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted that by 2020, 1.4 million computer science-related jobs will be available, but only 400,000 computer science graduates will have the skills to apply. According to data included in the news release, computer science is the fastest growing profession within STEM, but only 8% of these graduates get computer science degrees. And among these graduates, data shows, few are women or minorities.
It hasn't been easy for schools to implement computer science skills and bring them to life. Districts across the country struggle to find the time to integrate these lessons into the curriculum, and schools nationwide are facing teacher shortages, so it's even more difficult to find qualified, experienced and motivated educators to take the helm of these specialized courses. Some districts have been able to take the leap toward creating more opportunities for students to pursue STEM or, more specifically, computer science. But others — most notably, rural or low-income districts — face funding issues, technology gaps and other challenges that leave them at a disadvantage.
To combat some of these issues and make computer science a more central component of schools' curricula, administrators can take advantage of opportunities to apply for grant funding, partnering with local colleges or groups — as Amazon is doing in this initiative by teaming up with organizations Code.org and Coding with Kids — to get greater access to some of these resources and give students the chance to explore this rapidly expanding field.