No American resumes? – state of CS education

I had been planning on writing a blog entry on the apparently sad state of our CS industry these days, and the complete lack of qualified American resumes that come across my desk, when we actually got a decent one today.

Still, there is much to be said about the poor quality of education. At some points, we’ve gone through dozens of candidates that had such weak skills that I’m surprised they graduated from a reputable institution.

Then I noticed on the Google blog today a new initiative to partner with CS programs around the country. I applaud this effort and all like it. Serious companies like Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Amazon, Adobe, Apple, and everybody else who builds amazing software need to get involved and lay down the expectations.

Does anyone know if Microsoft has a similar comprehensive program? I know that they have MSDNAA, but that seems more like giving software in a marketing campaign than setting the agenda. I do see smaller efforts with robotics that are great, but a more general push is needed.

I consider myself lucky for having gone through a fantastic computer science education at BYU. I found it even much better than my graduate program.

The thought leaders need to start insisting on higher standards, and we need to shame schools that churn out useless bodies whose jobs will soon be outsourced.

I can see some pushback from academic circles because they won’t want big business telling them how to teach, but the reality is that when schools are doing such a poor job of preparing people, they need to change and listen to those who are going to be hiring.

We need to stop complaining and start changing the situation.


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4 thoughts on “No American resumes? – state of CS education

  1. Mike

    I went to BYU too and likewise thought that the caliber of the program was pretty good. Unfortunately even good programs can let some people through the cracks (ie graduating without a really good foundation).

    Many programs now seem to focus on “marketable” skills (resume builders like knowing Java or C# syntax or being familiar with agile methodologies) which I think is important, but taking the focus away from Computer Science (really understanding fundamentals like data structures, recursion and the like) is dangerous. I’m not sure what the right balance is as many times companies focus on the “marketable” skills, not on the real CS understanding since it can’t be easily quantified.

  2. M W

    While the lack of strength in American computer science students is painfully apparent, American students today see no purpose in pursuing a field that an been outsourced out to foreign labor for pennies on the dollar. This real-world reality makes a computer science degree almost worthless, and if one has to makes life decisions on their future, placing their bets on computer science is no longer a good decision. If American students have to spend long hours mastering a subject, then education, medicine and law are superior options to computer science. And when the student enters the workplace they do not have to be stigmatized by being the “guru”, “geek” or “wizard.” and placed in working conditions that almost seem to punish them for knowing much about computers.

  3. Ben Post author

    M W, I’m not sure that’s the case. From what I’ve seen, there’s way, way more work to be done than can be outsourced. The numbers on outsourcing aren’t that dire for American programmers. There’s more work than qualified people. Microsoft and Google have both lamented it, and I’ve seen it personally. at my previous company, we would much rather hire someone locally than outsource, but we just can’t find the talent.

    In DC, in fact, many of the programming jobs are open only to US citizens. Most of those jobs will remain unfilled.

    I think the perception of outsourcing is MUCH stronger than the reality. I think if someone is truly talented, they won’t have any trouble finding a job. The bar for success is higher now than in years past, but many students aren’t even hopping, let alone jumping.

  4. ChristianS

    “We need to stop complaining and start changing the situation.” Lol you realise your whole article is a complaint. Why not suggest (in practical terms) how to change the situation?

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