Last month six teenagers from the Bronx got on stage in front of hundreds of people at New York Tech Meetup. They presented two mobile apps they coded from scratch—apps designed to make a positive impact in their communities. These young programmers are all high achievers, but many of them have grown up facing adversity and lacking the resources to realize their full potential.
They don't have access to tech opportunities at school but, thanks to help from others, they have access to mentors who are tapping into their intelligence, potential and creativity to prepare them for careers in tech.
In the tech industry, the demand for qualified candidates is quickly outpacing supply. While computer science jobs represent 60% of science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers in the U.S., less than 3% of college students graduate with a degree in computer science annually. In fact, by 2020, there will be 1 million more computer science jobs than computer science students.
And here's the kicker: Most kids don't even have the chance to discover computer science at an early age because just 10% of high schools offer computer programming classes. When we look at minority students, the picture becomes even more troubling.
In 2012, African-American and Hispanic students accounted for less than .01% of all AP computer science exam candidates. But this isn't for lack of interest. A recent survey found that three of the top 10 desired careers among African-American and Hispanic students from low- to middle-income families were in the technology field.
These kids are hungry to learn, but without the opportunity and access, they're falling behind before they even have an opportunity to get started.
As marketing director at Fiverr, I work closely with our worldwide community of creative entrepreneurs. I've seen firsthand how the Internet can empower young people to explore their passions, grow their talents and earn money doing what they love. But just getting online isn't enough. Students need a nurturing ecosystem to offer guidance and encourage education in techhnology.
To close the opportunity gap in tech, we first need to empower young people with the necessary tools and mentoring. You can give any child a computer, but that alone won't build a foundation for success without training, support and encouragement.
That's especially true for underserved students, who often lack the all-important access to tech opportunities and mentorship that their wealthier peers have.
We don't have to fly them out to Silicon Valley to offer them these opportunities—we can support an environment for them in their own communities, working with grassroots organizations to engage and empower these kids, teaching them marketable skills, from programming to professionalism. This sets them up for success before they even graduate from high school.
In order to achieve a more diverse future tomorrow, we need to start not only encouraging, but also empowering all of today's bright young minds.
Are you passionate about using your creative talents to inspire others?
Fiverr, in partnership with Ad Age, Creativity Online and Internet Week New York, has launched Creative for a Cause, a design contest to support New York nonprofit Code/Interactive, which works with underserved youth to teach them the tech skills they need. The winning entry will be displayed on over 300 subway platforms throughout New York to encourage people to get involved with C/I.
The list of judges assembled for this contest include some of the most creative and innovative minds in the country: civil rights leader and champion for diversity in tech Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr.; Van Jones, CNN; Chinedu Echeruo, Constant Capital; Lisa Bright, iris Worldwide; Majora Carter, Startup Box; Ian Schafer, Deep Focus; Aaron Walton, Walton Isaacson; David-Michel Davies, Webby Media Group; Lucinda Martinez, HBO;Kirk McDonald, PubMatic; and Luis Miguel Messianu, Alma DDB, among others.
I'd like to challenge all of you in the creative community to contribute your talents to this amazing cause. Together, we can empower the students of today and help them prepare for the opportunities of tomorrow.
About the Author
Adam Swart is the director of marketing at Fiverr.
About the Sponsor
Fiverr is shaping the future of work every day. Founded in 2009, and based in New York, Chicago, Miami and Tel Aviv, Fiverr is the world's largest marketplace for creative and professional services, providing any digital service in one click. Whether designing a fresh website, writing colorful advertising copy or recording a catchy jingle, Fiverr Sellers deliver high-quality services across 190 countries from a vast catalog of more than 150 categories. The company's investors include Bessemer Venture Partners, Accel Partners and Qumra Capital. We invite you to visit us at www.Fiverr.com and join our conversation about the sharing economy on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.