Colorado Must Address its Tech Talent Gap

Colorado policymakers and educators have an important decision to make. We can continue to fall victim to a talent gap, or we can embrace the opportunity and begin to equip our students with the 21st century skills they need to succeed in the modern workforce.

The business community urges the latter.

Colorado is home to many advanced industries, and, in turn, thousands of careers requiring science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills. By 2020, nearly 55 percent of the state’s top jobs will require these skills. Many of these occupations pay well, and nearly half of them do not require a four-year college degree.

In Colorado, one of the most in-demand STEM careers is computer science. Colorado currently has more than 16,000 open computing jobs, and the average salary of these occupations is $92,000. By contrast, the overall average salary in Colorado is around $50,000.

These jobs aren’t only in tech — two thirds of the nation’s computing jobs are in other industries, including health care, advanced manufacturing, aerospace, and finance.

Unfortunately, relatively few opportunities exist for students in Colorado — and across the country — to study computer science.

With such a lack of exposure and access, only 661 students took an Advanced Placement Computer Science course last year. Among those, only 19 percent were female and 13 percent were Latino or black. Yet, students who take AP Computer Science classes in high school are seven to 10 times more likely to major in it in college.

Colorado’s kids deserve a better shot. It’s time to bridge the gap between the students who want these skills and the colleges and employers that need these students.

This piece originally appeared in the Denver Post. To read the entire piece, click here.

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Scott Laband