New Startup Code.org Seeks to Inspire Students to Pursue Coding as Career Empowerment

February 26, 2013

A new non-profit organization seeks to inspire students to learn code as a way of empowering themselves in the future job market, while contributing to the recovery and future growth of the economy. Code.org, a startup launched by brothers and angel investors Hadi and Ali Partovi, has a mission to publicize the value of computer science, and to make learning how to code more accessible across all demographics. The site serves as a hub for people to discover computer science-related educational resources from many different organizations, including Codecademy, Khan Academy, Scratch, and local schools.  Code.org also helps teachers learn how to incorporate computer science concepts into their regular curriculum.

“At a time when most English majors graduate jobless, computer science majors are twice as likely to land a job. Computers are our job creation engine, and programmers earn among the highest salaries in America,” Hadi and Ali wrote in an article published by The Huffington Post. “Ironically, computer education has declined over the past decade. […] Today 2% of students learn to code. If we grew that to 6%, we’d close the gap between students and jobs, adding $500 billion to our economy, and impacting every industry (almost 70% of these jobs are outside the tech sector).”

To support their assertions and spread their message, the Partovis released a short video this week featuring many of the big players in the tech industry, including Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Dropbox CEO Drew Houston, Elena Silenok of Clothia.com, and Valve Corporation President Gabe Newell, among others. The film, which CBS News featured in an article, begins with a quote from Steve Jobs: “Everyone in this country should learn how to program a computer…because it teaches you how to think.” It then launches into a discussion of the humble beginnings of computer science leaders, from Drew Houston’s initial programming experiences to Zuckerberg’s first coding projects, which he created to entertain himself and his siblings.

The film is aimed towards youth who might be intimidated by the abstract nature of coding, and intends to show them the power that a knowledge of programming can give them. “The programmers of tomorrow are the wizards of the future. You’re going to look like you have magic powers compared to everybody else,” said Gabe Newell in the film. Longer versions of the video also mention the perks associated with a job at well-known tech companies, including free food, game rooms, and the laid back and quirky culture, reported CBS News.

According to The Huffington Post, many famous individuals, from Ashton Kutcher to Bill Clinton, agree that Code.org’s mission is both important and incredibly relevant to today’s economy. As illustrated in an infographic that the Partovi brothers developed using research from the College Board, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the National Science Foundation, the disparity between the numbers of future computer science jobs and computer science students is such that by the year 2020, the U.S. will have 1.4 million available computer science jobs, and only 400,000 qualified candidates to fill these positions.

Code.org’s promotional film will gain audience exposure through several avenues, including Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and Regal Cinemas screenings (funded by Microsoft). Havi and Ali Partovi funded the film’s production themselves, and credit Steve Jobs’ legacy as part of their motivation for this philanthropic endeavor. “I’ve always known I wanted to take advantage of the connections I have in the industry to do something good,” Havi Partovi told The Seattle Times, “I’d always envisioned Steve Jobs as one of the spokespeople for this effort.” Partovi added that Jobs’ passing was added motivation for him to start Code.org, noting that he had “a sudden realization that [he had] basically been wasting [his] life while other people [were] dying.”

Compiled by Kaitlin Louie

“Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg star in video to promote writing computer code,” cbsnews.com, February 26, 2013, Chenda Ngak

“Code.org film debuts, stars Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and more,” blogs.seattletimes.com, February 26, 2013, Brier Dudley

“What 90% of Schools Don’t Teach,” huffingtonpost.com, February 26, 2013, Hadi Partovi and Ali Partovi

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