Is the US ready for the fourth Industrial Revolution?
How big a role will a Computer Science Education play in that revolution?
Thirty years ago, a manufacturing job could provide a middle-class wage with just a high school diploma and some on-the-job training.
Over the last five decades we have seen manufacturing leave the US to areas of the world with cheaper labor costs as well as reduced costs associated with greater proximity to suppliers of the global supply chain.
Even for manufacturing that has remained, far less employees are required to perform those previous manual tasks. This is true of manufacturing everywhere.
Robotics are displacing workers globally as well as here in the US.
This increasing trend is measured in global robotic density —- the number of robotic units per 10,000 employees. The US is in seventh place at 164 units, 66 units is the average, South Korea is first at 478.
The good news is that someone has to write the programming code to make the robots function as well as operate them. So the good paying manufacturing jobs can be replaced with good paying Computer Science and related jobs!
The potentially bad news is:
Are all students in the US getting the necessary computer science education they will require to handle these jobs of the future?
For Black History Month, Google released a one-sheet research brief that focuses on the CS experiences of black students in the U.S. and provides specific recommendations as informed by their Diversity Gaps in Computer Science report (a Google-Gallup multiyear study exploring Computer Science perceptions, access and learning opportunities among underrepresented groups).
One important finding was that black students are less likely to have CS classes at their schools compared to white and Hispanic students, 47% versus 58%/59%, respectively.
This disparity can have serious consequences for our future.
Over the next decade, it is estimated that nearly 3 ½ million manufacturing jobs likely need to be filled.
The skills gap is expected to result in 2 million of those jobs going unfilled (according a 2015 Manufacturing Skills Gap Report).
These are good-paying jobs. What will happen if insufficient access for African Americans to Computer Science education continues?
Our economy will suffer. The US will become less competitive. Probably most importantly innovation will not meet the demands of this new future and the US will fall behind.
If you saw the movie, Hidden Figures, you know this now. Katherine G. Johnson, the genius mathematician was instrumental in creating the new math to getting the US into orbit and ultimately to the moon to win the Space Race.
Imagine if Katherine G. Johnson never gained access to the education she deserved because she was a black girl/woman. Oh, her parents had to fight and sacrifice for that access. Her brilliance, enthusiasm and pure unquenchable desire to find answers would have been missing from the winning equation!
Can we afford to not provide all our students access to a Computer Science Education?
Maybe that young black girl will be the next Katherine Johnson or that young African American boy will be the next Steve Jobs?
The study also reflected that black students show high interest and confidence in learning Computer Science as 68% of black students are “very confident” they could learn CS vs 56% of Whites. So the enthusiasm is there.
We must match the access to the enthusiasm.
NO student can be left out. ALL students must have access to the necessary skills for the demands of a high-tech world. And we must be creative — mobile usage is greater among black students, over 81% (as compared to 74% of white students) and we need to develop mobile-friendly learning opportunities to put more computer science education in their hands.
The reality is, is that every company is a technology company —- every company today requires some type of ‘programming’ —- in varying degrees from an Excel macro (automation of a repetitive function), to HTML coding in WordPress for a website, to creating mobile Apps and APIs (Application Program Interface), used to interface between one system and another.
Computer Science Education is critical to preparing students for the future.
Computer Science also fosters critical thinking, creativity and innovation —- skills that will be essential to navigating a much more complicated world and work-scape.
We are at the start of the fourth industrial revolution.
“The robotic boom is laying down an important milestone in the realisation of the fourth industrial revolution”, says Joe Gemma, President of the International Federation of Robotics.
Will everyone have access to the tools and the education necessary to compete for those future jobs?