From creating the latest smartphones to making self-driving cars, tech jobs are among the highest paying and fastest growing in the U.S. economy. There are currently 500,000 open jobs in computing, but the number of computer science graduates falls short—just 50,000 each year, and, of those, only one in five are women.
A new program created by the University of California, Riverside and Riverside Unified School District (RUSD) aims to introduce coding and computer science to local high school students and promote diversity, and notably female participation, in these fields. The program is inspired by CS For All, an initiative developed by the National Science Foundation and U.S. Department of Education to empower all American students to become active citizens in our technology-driven world. The program will launch this summer, providing free one-week courses to 80 high school students from RUSD. The intensive courses will run twice, from June 19-23 and from June 26-30. Applications are due by April 26 and students can apply online or by calling 951-790-2633 (English speakers) or 951-878-0411 (Spanish speakers).
Angelov Farooq, founding director of the UCR Center for Economic Development and Innovation in the Office of Research and Economic Development and a member of the RUSD Board of Education, is leading the effort. He said similar programs in other parts of the country have been shown to increase the number of students, particularly girls and underrepresented minorities, who study computer science and go on to earn undergraduate degrees in the field.
“We have to emphasize technology and coding as an attainable career path for all students and encourage diversity in these fields because these are future-proof fields that will continue to grow and offer a wide spectrum of fulfilling and high-paying jobs,” Farooq said.
Farooq said he is particularly concerned about the lack of women from underrepresented and low-income families in the technology industry, a loss that would be acute in the Inland Empire. Today, less than 5 percent of all bachelor’s degrees in computer science are awarded to minority women.
During the program, attendees will get a hands-on, intensive programming experience, including building apps from scratch, touring engineering labs, and meeting with computer science professors in UCR’s Bourns College of Engineering.
“This is especially a great opportunity for girls to learn a new skill, be introduced to different fields in computer science, and make new friends, all in a comfortable environment,” said Kelly Downey, a computer science lecturer and lead instructor at the camp. “I am excited to teach the next generation of problem solvers computer programming skills that they can use in inventive and creative ways.”
Downey said at the end of the week, participants will walk away with new programming skills, a portfolio of apps they made, and an excitement for what can be done in the field of computer science. For more information, visit the CS For All website.