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Just the Facts

While it has been great to see the computing media/business media coverage of ACM's new Job Migration study, I worry about how much of the important information in this report is actually filtering down to students.

The most pervasive misconception about computer science, especially among students and their parents, is that there are no longer any job opportunities in this field. Media coverage about offshoring has played a major role in spreading this misinformation. My hope is that media's coverage of the Job Migration study may help undo some of the damage that has been done.

Contrary to what many people now believe, employment in IT in the U.S. is at an all-time high. As ACM President Dave Patterson noted in a recent column in Communications of the ACM (February 2006, 49(2), pp. 41-41) it is even higher than it was at the height of the dot-com boom. Contrary to the situation in other industries (think manufacturing!), annual job losses due to offshoring have been no more than 2-3% of the U.S. IT workforce.

As Patterson also indicated, there are also several types of IT work that are not likely to be offshored, including:
* Work that has not been routinized
* Work that is critical to a company's control over its own operations
* Work involving data security, data privacy, intellectual property, or proprietary information
* Work that relies on a combination of application-domain knowledge and IT knowledge.

Beyond the information about jobs in the IT sector, ACM's report raises some interesting ideas about curriculum which should be of direct interest to K-12 computer science educators.

Keeping students competitive in this new global IT economy is going to take more than drilling programming concepts into their heads. Our students need to become better problem solvers, to be curious, innovative, and creative. They need to see the connection between what they are doing in the classroom and real problems in the real world.

We also need to think seriously about making the so-called "soft skills" an integral part of our curriculum and our pedagogy. Students need to build team work and communication skills, and also to develop cross-cultural understandings that will allow them to function as citizens of this new world.

Chris Stephenson
Executive Director


Excellent points, Chris. Thanks for gathering the facts and presenting so concisely. You might also be interested in this news report about the critical value of CS in the natural sciences. This would seem to be an good opportunity for collaboration and sharing between departments within a school.

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