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We are very happy with the students that we get from this university. . . . We just wish we could hire two to three times as many of them. —. Bill Gates at Stanford, February 19, 2008. Computing and Competitiveness:. Implications of the Programmer Shortage. Eric Roberts

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slide1

We are very happy with the students that we get from this university. . . . We just wish we could hire two to three times as many of them.

Bill Gates at Stanford, February 19, 2008

Computing and Competitiveness:

Implications of the Programmer Shortage

Eric Roberts

Professor of Computer Science

Stanford University

CISAC

February 4, 2009

overview
Overview
  • Computing and information technology underlie much of the world economy and offer some of the best employment opportunities for college graduates in the United States today.
  • At the same time, student interest in these disciplines has plummeted throughout the developed world. The Computing Research Association estimates that computing enrollments in the United States have fallen by 50 percent since their peak in 2000. In many European countries, the decline has been even more severe. The decrease in student interest has, moreover, been particularly pronounced among women and minority students, reducing diversity as the pool shrinks.
  • Declining student interest in technical fields represents a serious threat to economic competitiveness at a critical time. The actions that developed countries take in response to this challenge will have a profound effect on the health of the world economy.
the challenge of global change

In a world where advanced knowledge is widespread and low-cost labor is readily available, U.S. advantages in the marketplace and in science and technology have begun to erode. A comprehensive and coordinated federal effort is urgently needed to bolster U.S. competitiveness and pre-eminence in these areas. This congressionally requested report by a pre-eminent committee makes four recommendations along with 20 implementation actions that federal policy-makers should take to create high-quality jobs and focus new science and technology efforts on meeting the nation’s needs, especially in the area of clean, affordable energy:

1)

2)

3)

4)

Increase America’s talent pool by vastly improving K-12 mathematics and science education;

Sustain and strengthen the nation’s commitment to long-term basic research;

Develop, recruit, and retain top students, scientists, and engineers from both the U.S. and abroad; and

Ensure that the United States is the premier place in the world for innovation.

The Challenge of Global Change
the pipeline paradox in computing

Employment

(thousands)

Top 10 job growth categories (2006-2016)

2006

2016

Growth

1.

Network systems and data communications analysts

262

402

53.4

2.

Personal and home care aides

767

1,156

50.6

3.

Home health aides

787

1,171

48.7

4.

Computer software engineers, applications

507

733

44.6

5.

Veterinary technologists and technicians

71

100

41.0

6.

Personal financial advisors

176

248

41.0

7.

Makeup artists, theatrical and performance

2

3

39.8

8.

Medical assistants

465

148

35.4

62

84

35.0

9.

Veterinarians

10.

Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors

83

112

34.3

Source:

U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections: 2006-16, December 2007.

The Pipeline Paradox in Computing
  • The computing industry offers some of the best employment opportunities for college graduates in the United States today:
    • The number of jobs in the domestic software industry are at an all-time high and are projected to grow dramatically over the next decade.
degree production vs job openings

Computer Science

Degree Production vs. Job Openings

160,000

Ph.D.

140,000

Master’s

120,000

Bachelor’s

100,000

Projected job openings

80,000

60,000

40,000

20,000

Engineering

Physical Sciences

Biological Sciences

Sources:

Adapted from a presentation by John Sargent, Senior Policy Analyst, Department of Commerce, at the CRA Computing Research Summit, February 23, 2004. Original sources listed as National Science Foundation/Division of Science Resources Statistics; degree data from Department of Education/National Center for Education Statistics: Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System Completions Survey; and NSF/SRS; Survey of Earned Doctorates; and Projected Annual Average Job Openings derived from Department of Commerce (Office of Technology Policy) analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics 2002-2012 projections. See http://www.cra.org/govaffairs/content.php?cid=22.

the pipeline paradox in computing1

Google and Facebook are fighting hard to hire this year’s crop of computer science graduates, we’ve heard, and ground zero is Stanford. Most of the class of 2008 already have job offers even though graduation is months away.

Last year, salaries of up to $70,000 were common for the best students. This year, Facebook is said to be offering $92,000, and Google has increased some offers to $95,000 to get their share of graduates. Students with a Master’s degree in Computer Science are being offered as much as $130,000 for associate product manager jobs at Google.

The Pipeline Paradox in Computing
  • The computing industry offers some of the best employment opportunities for college graduates in the United States today:
    • The number of jobs in the domestic software industry are at an all-time high and are projected to grow dramatically over the next decade.
    • Salaries for newly minted B.S. graduates in Computer Science are high, sometimes exceeding the $100,000 mark.
    • In 2005, Money magazine rated software engineer as the number one job in America.
    • Employment in this area is vital for national competitiveness.
  • At the same time, student interest in these disciplines has plummeted. The Computing Research Association (CRA) estimates that computing enrollments have fallen by almost 50 percent since their peak in 2000.
  • Why this disconnect?
the need for greater understanding

I have not seen a compelling narrative for the decline in student interest.

Bill Gates, Stanford University,

February 19, 2008

The Need for Greater Understanding
  • The failure of universities to produce a sufficient number of graduates with the necessary computing skills is now widely recognized as a crisis in both academia and industry.
  • Unfortunately, the underlying causes for the decline in student interest are not well understood. Although several theories seek to explain the decline in student interest, they do not provide a comprehensive explanation of student behavior.
  • These slides represent an early attempt toward developing a “compelling narrative” of the sort Bill Gates described during his visit to Stanford last year. That narrative is as yet a work in progress, and I welcome any comments and criticism.
why this paradox

1.

The kind of exposure students get to computing at the elementary and secondary level tends to push people away from the discipline long before they reach the university.

2.

3.

Fears about the long-term economic stability of employment in the computing industry continue to have a profound effect on student interest in our discipline.

The image of work in the field—and, more importantly, all too much of the reality of work in the field—is unattractive to most students and no longer seems fun, particularly in comparison to other opportunities that bright students might pursue.

Why this Paradox?
why this paradox1

1.

The kind of exposure students get to computing at the elementary and secondary level tends to push people away from the discipline long before they reach the university.

2.

3.

Fears about the long-term economic stability of employment in the computing industry continue to have a profound effect on student interest in our discipline.

The image of work in the field—and, more importantly, all too much of the reality of work in the field—is unattractive to most students and no longer seems fun, particularly in comparison to other opportunities that bright students might pursue.

Why this Paradox?
the problem starts early
The Problem Starts Early

The UCLA HERI study shows that students have already made their decisions before they reach university.

Source: Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, 2005

computing faces huge challenges in schools
Computing Faces Huge Challenges in Schools
  • In many schools, computing courses are seen as vocational rather than academic. The NCAA has eliminated academic credit for all computing courses on this basis.
  • Students who are heading toward top universities are advised to take non-CS courses to bolster their admissions chances.
  • Because schools are evaluated on how well their students perform in math and science, many schools are shifting teachers away from computer science toward these disciplines. Those disciplines, moreover, actively oppose expanding high-school computer science.
  • People who have software development skills command high salaries and tend not to teach in schools.

J

  • Administrators find tools like PowerPoint more

sexy

and

exciting.

  • Computing skills in general—and programming in particular—have become much harder to teach.
  • Teachers have few resources to keep abreast of changes in the field.
cs is losing ground

Eliminated in 2009

CS is Losing Ground
  • The Computer Science exam is the only Advanced Placement exam that has shown declining student numbers in recent years.
why this paradox2

1.

The kind of exposure students get to computing at the elementary and secondary level tends to push people away from the discipline long before they reach the university.

2.

3.

Fears about the long-term economic stability of employment in the computing industry continue to have a profound effect on student interest in our discipline.

The image of work in the field—and, more importantly, all too much of the reality of work in the field—is unattractive to most students and no longer seems fun, particularly in comparison to other opportunities that bright students might pursue.

Why this Paradox?
myths of a jobs crisis persist

All this talk about “Blue Skies” ahead just can’t hide the stark fact that Americans who don’t wish to migrate to India and/or some other off-shore haven are going to have a difficult career.

December 1, 2005

Blue Skies Ahead for IT Jobs

BY MARIA KLAWE

Contrary to popular belief, career opportunities in computer science are at an all-time high. We’ve got to spread that message among students from a rainbow of backgrounds, or risk becoming a technological backwater.

Maria Klawe

President, Harvey Mudd College

(at the time, Dean at Princeton)

Myths of a Jobs Crisis Persist

There is no shortage of evidence that people believe the myths about the lack of jobs and the danger of outsourcing.

Why would any smart American undergrad go into IT when companies like IBM and HP are talking of stepping up their off-shoring efforts in the coming years? They want cheap labor, no matter the real cost.

I have been very successful in IT, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend it today to anyone except people who are geeks. . . .

I think the latest figures from the U.S. Department of Labor are not correct.

myths about offshoring

1.

All IT jobs will soon be outsourced to India and China.

2.

Good IT workers will be easy to find in the new “flatter” world.

3.

Companies will always seek the lowest-priced labor.

The 2006 ACM report on Globalization and Offshoring of Software finds that even though offshoring of software has increased the number of computing jobs in India and China, it has also increased the number of jobs in the United States.  

Myths about Offshoring

Thus, at least in computing, globalization has functioned exactly as the theory of comparative advantage suggests.  

a thought experiment about offshoring
A Thought Experiment about Offshoring
  • Suppose that you are Microsoft and that you can hire a software developer from Stanford whose loaded costs will be $200,000 per year. Over in Bangalore, however, you can hire a software developer for $75,000 per year. Both are equally talented and will create $1,000,000 annually in value. What do you do?
  • Although the developer in Bangalore has a higher return, the optimal strategy is to hire them both. After all, why throw away $800,000 a year?
  • Any elementary economics textbook will explain that one hires as long as the marginal value of the new employee is greater than the marginal cost. The essential point is that companies seek to maximize return, and not simply to minimize cost.
industry reports a labor shortage
Industry Reports a Labor Shortage

—April 28, 2005

Gates Cites Hiring Woes, Criticizes Visa Restrictions

By David A. Vise

Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates said yesterday the software giant is having enormous difficulty filling computer jobs in the United States as a result of tight visa restrictions on foreign workers and a declining interest among U._S. students in computer science.

<tab>Speaking on a technology panel at the Library of Congress, Gates said a decline in the number of U._S. students pursuing careers in science and technology is hurting Microsoft in the short run, and could have serious long-term consequences for the U._S. economy if the problem is not addressed.

<tab>“We are very concerned that the U._S. will lose its competitive position. For Microsoft, it means we are having a tougher time hiring,” Gates said. “The jobs are there, and they are good-paying jobs, but we don’t have the same pipeline.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/04/27/AR2005042702241.html

and various data seem to agree

In computing, the pattern of degree production vs. employment is reversed.

160,000

Ph.D.

140,000

Master’s

120,000

Bachelor’s

100,000

Projected job openings

Employment

  • 39% of workers in computing have degrees in computing.

(thousands)

80,000

Top 10 job growth categories (2006-2016)

2006

2016

Growth

60,000

1.

Network systems and data communications analysts

262

402

53.4

2.

Personal and home care aides

767

1,156

50.6

40,000

3.

Home health aides

787

1,171

48.7

20,000

4.

Computer software engineers, applications

507

733

44.6

5.

Veterinary technologists and technicians

71

100

41.0

Engineering

Physical Sciences

Biological Sciences

Computer Science

6.

Personal financial advisors

176

248

41.0

  • 14% of graduates with degrees in the life sciences work in those fields.
  • 71% of students with degrees in computing remain in the field.

7.

Makeup artists, theatrical and performance

2

3

39.8

Sources:

Adapted from a presentation by John Sargent, Senior Policy Analyst, Department of Commerce, at the CRA Computing Research Summit, February 23, 2004. Original sources listed as National Science Foundation/Division of Science Resources Statistics; degree data from Department of Education/National Center for Education Statistics: Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System Completions Survey; and NSF/SRS; Survey of Earned Doctorates; and Projected Annual Average Job Openings derived from Department of Commerce (Office of Technology Policy) analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics 2002-2012 projections. See http://www.cra.org/govaffairs/content.php?cid=22.

8.

Medical assistants

465

148

35.4

62

84

35.0

9.

Veterinarians

10.

Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors

83

112

34.3

Source:

U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections: 2006-16, December 2007.

Sources:

National Science Foundation/Division of Science Resources Statistics, SESTAT (Scientists and Engineers Statistical Data System), 1999, as presented by Caroline Wardle at Snowbird 2002.

And Various Data Seem to Agree

Working in the life sciences typically requires a degree in biology or some closely related field, but relatively few biology majors actually end up working in the field.

  • 80% of workers in the life sciences have degrees in the life sciences.
but there are contrary arguments
But There Are Contrary Arguments

—January 26, 1998

Now Hiring! If You’re Young

By Norman Matloff

DAVIS, Calif—Readers of recent reports about a shortage of computer programmers would be baffled if they also knew that Microsoft hires only 2 percent of its applicants for software positions. Even among those applicants whom Microsoft invites to its headquarters for interviews, according to David Pritchard, the director of recruiting, the company makes offers to only one in four.

<tab>You don’t have to be a “techie” to see that such a low ratio, typical for the industry, contradicts the claims of a software labor shortage. If companies were that desperate, they simply could not be so picky.

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E0CE6DF123BF935A15752C0A96E958260

Matloff argues that there is no programmer shortage. The only clear conclusion one can draw from the data is that companies perceive a shortage in applicants who pass their quality threshold.

variations in programmer productivity

H. Sackman, W. J. Erikson, and E. E. Grant. Exploratory experimental studies comparing on-line and off-line programming performance. Communications of the ACM, January 1968.

T. Pui-Wing and K. Delaney. Google’s growth helps ignite Silicon Valley hiring frenzy.
Wall Street Journal, November 23, 2005.

1

5

W. Curtis. Substantiating programmer variability. Proceedings of the IEEE, July 1981.

2

T. DeMarco and T. Lister. Programmer performance and the effects of the workplace. Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Software Engineering. IEEE Computing Society Press, August 1985.

3

G. E. Bryan. Not all programmers are created equal. In Richard Thayer, Software Engineering Project Management (second edition), IEEE Computer Society, 1997.

4

Variations in Programmer Productivity
  • In 1968, a study by Sackman, Erikson, and Grant1 revealed that programmers with the same level of experience exhibit variations of more than 20 to 1 in the time required to solve particular programming problems.
  • More recent studies2, 3, 4 confirm this high variability.
  • Most industry insiders believe that the productivity variance is even higher today. In 2005, Google’s VP for Engineering, Alan Eustace, told The Wall Street Journal that one top-notch engineer is worth 300 times or more than the average.5
the microsoft programming personae

Mort is your most common developer, who doesn’t have a CS background, may even be a recent newcomer, and doesn’t quite understand what the computer is doing under the covers, but who writes the dinky IT programs that make businesses run. Elvis, more knowledgeable, cares about code quality, but has a life too. Einstein writes some serious-ass piece of code like device drivers, wants to get things done, needs to be able to go low level and high level, needs a language without restrictions to get his job done.

Mort is your most common developer, who doesn’t have a CS background, may even be a recent newcomer, and doesn’t quite understand what the computer is doing under the covers, but who writes the dinky IT programs that make businesses run. Elvis, more knowledgeable, cares about code quality, but has a life too. Einstein writes some serious-ass piece of code like device drivers, wants to get things done, needs to be able to go low level and high level, needs a language without restrictions to get his job done.

The Microsoft Programming Personae

Microsoft’s cultural lore defines three types of programmers:

Mort is your most common developer, who doesn’t have a CS background, may even be a recent newcomer, and doesn’t quite understand what the computer is doing under the covers, but who writes the dinky IT programs that make businesses run. Elvis, more knowledgeable, cares about code quality, but has a life too. Einstein writes some serious-ass piece of code like device drivers, wants to get things done, needs to be able to go low level and high level, needs a language without restrictions to get his job done.

Wesner Moise, “Who are you? Mort, Elvis or Einstein,” September 25, 2003

http://wesnerm.blogs.com/net_undocumented/2003/09/who_are_you_mor.html

For the most part, Microsoft (along with Google and other first-rank companies) are seeking to hire the Einsteins, which explains the low hiring ratio.

productivity variations are common
Productivity Variations Are Common
  • The idea that individuals might differ in productivity by two or more orders of magnitude initially seems hard to believe.
  • In fact, such differences in efficacy and productivity occur across a range of occupational categories:
    • Mathematicians
    • Creative artists (writers, composers, poets, painters)
    • Performers (musicians, actors)
    • Motion picture directors
    • Financial wizards, CEOs
    • Professional athletes
  • No one achieves mastery in any of these fields on the basis of raw talent alone. Training and practice are essential.
alternative models of software education

SEMESTER AT SEA

Alternative Models of Software Education

In many creative disciplines, students learn from mentors who are masters of their craft. It may make sense to create “conservatories” for the teaching of software arts, similar to music conservatories. One possibility might be some sort of New England Conservatory of Coding. (Or perhaps a Hogwarts School for Software Wizardry.

In many creative disciplines, students learn from mentors who are masters of their craft. It may make sense to create “conservatories” for the teaching of software arts, similar to music conservatories. One possibility might be some sort of New England Conservatory of Coding. (Or perhaps a Hogwarts School for Software Wizardry.)

In many creative disciplines, students learn from mentors who are masters of their craft. It may make sense to create “conservatories” for the teaching of software arts, similar to music conservatories. One possibility might be some sort of New England Conservatory of Coding. (Or perhaps a Hogwarts School for Software Wizardry.)

Another model might be to create intensive programs that encourage students to focus on the art of software development, in much the same way that programs like the University of Virginia’s Semester at Sea program offers a concentrated immersion in oceanography, geography, and cultural anthropology.

SEMESTER AT C++

paul graham s hackers and painters
Paul Graham’s Hackers and Painters

When I finished grad school in computer science I went to art school to study painting. A lot of people seemed surprised that someone interested in computers would also be interested in painting. They seemed to think that hacking and painting were very different kinds of work—that hacking was cold, precise, and methodical, and that painting was the frenzied expression of some primal urge.

<tab>Both of these images are wrong. Hacking and painting have a lot in common. In fact, of all the different types of people I’ve known, hackers and painters are among the most alike.

<tab>What hackers and painters have in common is that they’re both makers. Along with composers, architects, and writers, what hackers and painters are trying to do is make good things.

Paul Graham

(photo by Niall Kennedy)

http://www.paulgraham.com/hp.html

why this paradox3

1.

The kind of exposure students get to computing at the elementary and secondary level tends to push people away from the discipline long before they reach the university.

2.

3.

Fears about the long-term economic stability of employment in the computing industry continue to have a profound effect on student interest in our discipline.

The image of work in the field—and, more importantly, all too much of the reality of work in the field—is unattractive to most students and no longer seems fun, particularly in comparison to other opportunities that bright students might pursue.

Why this Paradox?
the real image problem
The Real Image Problem

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CmYDgncMhXw

the reality is also a problem
The Reality Is Also a Problem

Has anyone considered the possibility that it’s just not fun anymore?

—Don Knuth, October 11, 2006

  • Students at Stanford have expressed the following concerns:
    • Long hours with little chance for a balanced life
    • A less pleasant social milieu than other occupations
    • A sense that success in programming is possible only for those who are much brighter than they see themselves to be
    • Work that is often repetitive and unchallenging, particularly when it involves maintaining legacy technology
    • Programming has become more difficult than it used to be
    • No chance for a lasting impact because of rapid obsolescence
    • Fears that employment with an individual company is dicey even though opportunities are good in the industry as a whole
    • Frustration at being managed by nontechnical people who make more money but are not as bright
    • A perception that programmers are definitely on the labor side of the labor/capital divide
dilbert offers an instructive lesson

Capital

Labor

Dilbert Offers an Instructive Lesson

Most students today would rather be Dilbert’s boss than Dilbert.

dangerous trends
Dangerous Trends

We have met the enemy and he is us.

Walt Kelly

  • As an illustration of this trend, consider the following post that appeared on SIGCSE-MEMBERS on August 14, 2006:

I have an idea for a panel that I’d like to organize for SIGCSE’07. I’m asking for volunteers (or nominations of others) to serve on the panel. The panel I’d like to organize would have a title something like:

“Alternative Models for a Programming-lite Computer Science Curriculum”

The theme of the panel would be to share ideas and thoughts on how we might reduce (or eliminate) the emphasis on programming within a computer science curriculum. The basic idea is to cause discussion centered on the knowledge and skills students of tomorrow will need in the global economic workspace and the implications for the CS curriculum. As more and more aspects of software development of “offshored”, what kind of curriculum would allow a student to be successful in the IT field?

industry is not amused

Employers in developed countries with high-tech sectors are desperate for more people with programming talent. In his keynote at ITiCSE 2007 in Dundee, Scottish entrepreneur Chris van der Kuyl said that the lack of programming talent was the greatest limiting factor in the industry. He called it coding.

Industry Is Not Amused
  • Every technical person in the industry with whom I’ve spoken is horrified by the prospect of reducing the emphasis on programming in the undergraduate curriculum.
  • At an ACM Education Council meeting in September 2007, a panel of technical people from companies like Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and Boeing were united in their concern about the scarcity of competent software developers. I have summarized their position as “the computing curriculum is not nearly as broken as it seems likely to become.”
  • Employers in developed countries with high-tech sectors are desperate for more people with programming talent. In his keynote at ITiCSE 2007 in Dundee, Scottish entrepreneur Chris van der Kuyl said that the lack of programming talent was the greatest limiting factor in the industry.
programming remains central
Programming Remains Central
  • Calls to “reduce or eliminate” programming from computing curricula arise from some undeniable assumptions:
    • There are more jobs in IT that don’t require programming.
    • Programming is not particularly popular with students today.
    • Offshoring of programming jobs has increased.
  • Unfortunately, this analysis ignores the following equally valid propositions:
    • There are more jobs in IT that do require programming.
    • Programming has historically been what attracts students the most.
    • Globalization has created more IT jobs in India/China and the U.S.
    • Offshoring exists largely because of a shortfall of skilled employees.
what we need to do
What We Need To Do
  • Encourage the federal government to launch a sputnik-scale initiative to advance education in science and technology.
  • Press government and industry to improve computing education at the K-12 level, possibly through public-private partnerships.
  • Take creative steps to bolster both the image and the reality of work in the profession.
  • Make it clear to students (as well as faculty) that programming remains essential to much of the work in the field.
  • Emphasize the “beauty” of programming by focusing more attention on software as an art.