U.S. Rep. and former undercover CIA operative Will Hurd takes a photo with kids at the DoSeum which features a Spy Academy exhibit. Credit: Kathryn Boyd-Batstone / Rivard Report

One of the best parts of my job is visiting schools and talking with students. Every chance I get, I tell young people about the opportunities that a computer science education can provide. Many are shocked to learn that although an estimated 42,000 computing jobs are waiting to be filled in Texas, only 2,100 computer scientists graduated from Texas schools last year. Students are even more interested to learn that the average salary of a computer science professional is more than $85,000 – almost twice the average salary in Texas.

Outside of the Washington, D.C. area, San Antonio has the highest concentration of cybersecurity professionals, placing the city at the forefront of tech development. Unfortunately, we are far behind when it comes to producing enough computer science professionals to meet demand. Currently, the pipeline that educates future computer science professionals begins for some at the high school level, but the drive to teach these skills must begin earlier, ideally in our middle schools.

Our world is transforming into a place where coding and technological literacy is comparable to typing proficiency in the 1990s. The incredible medical advancements we see today are products of early exposure to science courses that inspire young people to pursue further education in the field. We need to follow suit with computer science. Offering tech education early on not only serves as the foundation for continued education in high school and beyond, but also exposes students to the jobs we will need to fill in the future. It could have a dramatic impact on closing the employment gap in the tech industry.

For these reasons, I am glad to announce a new computer science initiative in partnership with Bootstrap and The University of Texas’ Center for STEM Education, designed to increase middle school students’ access to a quality computer science education. Through this initiative, Bootstrap, a nonprofit organization, will train middle school math teachers how to incorporate coding and computer science concepts into their math classes, using an easily adoptable curriculum consistent with national and state math standards. Because the curriculum is taught within existing math classes, schools do not need to hire new teachers or offer additional courses.

Furthermore, the curriculum is designed to encourage students to pursue computer science beyond middle school by using mathematical programming to design video games and other interactive media. Intel, Dell, Facebook and Brocade are sponsoring this initiative because they understand the impact early computer science training will have on their industry. Investing in students today will benefit the tech industry – and our nation – tomorrow.

Initial training will take place in San Antonio during the spring of 2017 so that teachers can incorporate the computer science curriculum into the 2017-2018 academic year. Because of the corporate sponsors, Bootstrap and the Center for STEM Education will be able to train 40 middle school teachers from schools that serve students across the 23rd Congressional District of Texas.

This initiative will only be successful with the support of superintendents, principals, teachers, and parents. Registration for this initiative is now open, and I encourage your school to participate. To learn more about this new Computer Science Initiative and how to apply, click here.

I hope you’ll join me in educating the next generation of computer scientists. Our future depends on it.

U.S. Rep. Will Hurd has represented the 23rd congressional district of Texas since 2015. This November, he is seeking re-election to Congress.

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