Print what you know

Globe and Mail article - Where jobs are and students aren't

It doesn’t matter if you’re running a high-school yearbook, a indie zine, a campus humour newspaper or a national rag, you turn to your friends for help and stories. Omar and I did the CompSci thing at Queen’s, but neither of us was particularily enamored with the corporate culture that everyone seemed to be pimping. Now, he’s writing for Globe, I got a teaching degree and he’s decided to write an article about it.

The gist of the article is there were a lot of tech jobs, so a lot of people went into computer science. Then the tech industry blew up and there weren’t any jobs left. But the industry is bumpin’ again, and they can’t get monkeys to do the crap jobs.

The article is partially targetted at getting people interested in Computer Science again. However, the problem isn’t just a lack of enrollment at the university level, the roots go much deeper. Enrollment is down across the board, high-schools are dropping computer courses like rocks due to lack of interest, translating into very few teaching jobs for someone marketing themselves purely as a CS teacher.

Personally, I feel that a lot of the problems lie in the disconnect between the curriculum and how students actually use computers. The curriculum is very business and/or programming oriented, there isn’t a huge focus on the internet beyond research purposes. These kids use the internet for everything and have been using these machines for most of their lives. Telling to type up a form letter in Word excites them about as much as a fat man in a speedo.

That said, the internet creates a massive level of freak-out on the part of admistrators. “We can’t give these kids unrestricted access, they’ll be downloading bomb recipes, porno and rap-music.” Honestly, they’ll be doing that anyway and will end up more inclined to do so. Throwing up a big barrier just makes kids want to get around it. Besides, we all know there’s always a way to get around the human element of software configuration.

What can we do to get kids interested again? Teach them interesting stuff. And that goes for all levels. You can teach a 6 year-old to program, you can trust a teenager to build a website and you can actually teach something useful to university students.

Theory is great. Math is great. So are algorithms and logic and everything else that they teach us over the course of a CS degree. But where are the scripting languages? Where are the database-driven web applications? Where are the make files? Where are my CSS and web-standards? We don’t need ’em all but it would be nice to have an introduction to some of these things. I knew people in their third or four year that didn’t know how to ftp/telnet into the lab server so they didn’t actually have to walk over to submit programs.

Anyway, I thought Omar’s article was going to be a bit more along the lines of, “People don’t want to work for the man” and less, “Hay guys! We need worker-bees”, which might help this quote make more sense:

“I see no need to get myself stuck in a grey box somewhere pounding out code that may or may not be used inside some whale of an application,” Mr. Kellam says.

It’s not so much that I don’t want a tech job, more that I’d rather spend time freelancing or on my own company than being an under-appreciated, underpaid codemonkey. Anyway, it got my name, picture and wonderful work ethic into a national newspaper, so I’m not complaining.

I don’t know what the Globe archiving policy is like, so here’s a pdf copy of the article:

PDF: Where jobs are and students aren’t (online)

JPG: Where jobs are and students aren’t (print)