Last week, Bill Gates was quoted in several publications including this one lamenting the fact that more American kids are not studying computer science. He claims to be concerned that Microsoft will run out of graduates to recruit into its coding ranks.
Information Week's Mitch Wagner thinks Gates has himself to blame. Wagner thinks today's kids see the writing on the wall. He cites reports that technology jobs are getting exported to countries with low-cost labor and that fewer US employers are offering IT-centric summer internships. Why pursue a computer science degree if there might not be enough IT jobs upon graduation, he argues.
I think they're both missing a bigger point.
Rather than focusing on the sheer quantity of US college graduates studying computer science, they should be highlighting the quality (or lack thereof) compared with their international brethren. The results of this year's ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest were telling. Only three US universities finished in the top 29 (and none of them was in the top 15).
The ACM winners are some of the brightest technology students in the world. They represent tomorrow's innovators. They are most likely to found the next technology giant -- the Microsoft (or Intel, Cisco, Apple, etc) of the future. Over time, the center of the global technology industry will emigrate from the US and, based on the ACM contest results, will probably land somewhere in Asia. The venture capital and related investment banking ecosystems will follow the technology entrepreneurs. Then will go the lawyers and accountants who help these technology companies to grow up. This is not just about IT jobs.
Fortunately, the average video-game playing American kid has good hand-eye coordination and nimble wrists. Both are good for flipping burgers.