According to data released by the federal government, there are more than 900,000 internet technology and computer science jobs in the U.S. In Utah, more than 5,000 of these jobs are unfilled.
To address this issue, Utah tech companies are working with state law makers to fund a K-12 computer science program by 2022 — including Gov. Gary Herbert's proposed $10.2 million of the 2021 state budget.
“First and foremost, it’s the recognition that our economy is changing very rapidly," said Utah's Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox. “Whether computer science is what you want to do for an actual living, or whatever it is you want to do, virtually every piece of the economy now is impacted by computers and technology. It really is the language of the future.”
Many districts across the state have been working to create these opportunities for several years now, according to Tim Smith with the Cache County School District. But Smith said reworking the schedule to make room for the new curriculum on top of state requirements for subjects like math, science, health and literacy — in addition to finding qualified professionals to instruct students on coding — will be the program’s biggest challenges.
“When the business world is experiencing shortages at the magnitude they are in the state of Utah, you can imagine the shortages that creates in an educational setting,” Smith said. "We have to take our own teachers and figure out how to provide the professional development to train them to be able to teach those subject areas."
If approved, Gov. Herbert’s proposal would join the $4 million in pledges and contributions of the Silicon Slopes Computer Science Fund, established by several Utah tech firms with the Community Foundation of Utah.