Gates worried over decline in U.S. computer scientists
Interest in the field is waning among college students
IDG News Service - Microsoft Corp. Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates said today that there is a shortage of qualified computer science engineers for hire in the U.S., a problem that reflects a decline of interest in that course of study.
Speaking at the Microsoft Research Faculty Summit on Microsoft's campus in Redmond, Wash., Gates said that while his company finds many suitable engineering candidates for employment in India and China, it has a harder time recruiting qualified individuals in the U.S.
"We're very short with what we'd like to get in the States," he said. "The competition for someone with the right background is very [limited]."
Gates made his comments in a question-and-answer discussion with Maria Klawe, dean of engineering and computer science professor at Princeton University, during Microsoft's annual conference for collaboration between commercial technology companies and researchers and educators in computer science. The two discussed the problem of waning interest in the study of computer science in the U.S. and reflected on efforts that might be taken to remedy the situation.
This is not the first time Gates has expressed concern about the availability of computer science talent in the U.S. In April, he spoke on a technology panel at the Library of Congress, where he urged lawmakers to ease visa restrictions for foreign workers, citing difficulty filling positions at Microsoft due to the lack of interest in computer science among U.S. students (see Gates urges end to H-1B visa limits.
Indeed, Klawe pointed out that the popularity of computer science as a major for incoming college students fell more than 60% between 2000 and 2004, according to the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles. She said students, especially women, are not entering computer science because it is not viewed as exciting a career as others such as law or medicine, which are often glamorized in television shows and Hollywood movies.
Gates admitted he is "very worried" about the drop in the number of students entering computer science and said that it is up to technology companies like Microsoft to cultivate a positive image of the work being done to help lure students into IT.
"The best thing Microsoft can do is share examples of what kinds of jobs these are and how interesting they are," Gates said. To dispel the myth that all computer scientists do is write code in isolation with limited social interaction, Microsoft must preach to the benefits of working on different aspects of technology projects, such as coordinating engineering teams and project management, he said.
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