This scarcity of talent has received a lot of attention in connection with high-flying Silicon Valley companies: Google threw around $100 and $50 million offers to keep their top talent from fleeing to Twitter, and some companies pay tens of thousands to recruiters for even junior talent. Startups feel the same pressure: TechCrunch describes a "war for talent" among young firms, and anyone who has chatted with the CEO of a fast-growing tech company knows how much time they devote to identifying and wooing top technical talent.
The Startup Act addresses this shortage of qualified workers through immigration reform: The bill creates an entrepreneurship visa for certain immigrants starting a company, and also provides a five year visa for immigrants who receive advanced degrees in the U.S. for science, technology, engineering, and math and then work in those fields.
But the Startup Act should give all Americans, not just immigrants, a better shot at being tomorrow's engineers and entrepreneurs. And that opportunity could begin at a young age with education in computer programming.
Students and parents expect a tax-supported education to provide. In a 2010 poll, almost 80 percent of Americans said our public schools are not preparing children for high-skilled jobs of the future. American schools have been criticized for teaching kids how to follow orders and to be good employees, rather than to think independently, creatively, and with an entrepreneurial mindset. But, even if our schools were merely aiming low and training "employees" and not "leaders," they'd be failing at that task, too. In international rankings of the OECD countries, American public schools rank 14th in reading, 17th in science, and 25th in math.
The Startup Act can help tackle this problem by incentivizing and funding public schools to bring computer programming -- or coding -- into classrooms. The goal would not be to mold every child into the next Mark Zuckerberg, but to ensure everyone in our society can better understand the code that affects their lives. Thinking like a programmer is not only helpful to succeed in any technical career, it will also become integral to simply navigating our increasingly digital world. Code consists of languages that can be taught just as we already teach the "language" of math, the language of music, and the language of Spanish vocabulary and grammar. Students could decide whether or not they want to pursue greater fluency and expertise in coding (or Spanish), and (if nothing else) students would benefit from the distinct problem-solving framework of a coding mentality -- which may be a more entrepreneurial mentality than memorizing the dates of famous battles in the Thirty Years War. It would help students to think critically -- to analyze and solve problems.