Monday, September 15, 2014

Computer science: It's where the jobs are, but schools don't teach it

By Dan Lewis

Special to the San Jose Mercury News
POSTED: 09/12/2014 10:00:00 AM PDT

Fifty-six percent of California public high schools don't offer a single course in computer science or programming. Why should you care?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says 1.4 million new jobs in computing will be created this decade. That's more than all the new jobs in all other science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields combined.

Yet only about 400,000 students are expected to earn bachelor's degrees in computing during the same period. There won't be enough graduates to fill these jobs. By contrast, in engineering, life sciences, physical sciences and mathematics, the number of college graduates will exceed the number of jobs.

There's a lot of talk within K-12 about the importance of STEM. But when it comes to curricula, computer science doesn't count toward California high school graduation requirements or toward the admission requirements in math or science for admission to the University of California. Computer science only counts as a free elective.

The Legislature just passed two bills to address these issues. Senate Bill 1200 allows (but does not require) the University of California to count computer science toward the math requirements for admission. However, there's been a lot of push back from UC on this, so for now, all we really have is an expression of intent from the Legislature. Thankfully, AB 1764 allows high schools to count computer science toward graduation requirements. Of course, that may not mean much for students applying to UC.

For these reasons, computer science isn't a priority for students. Nor is it a priority for schools when determining course offerings based on limited budgets: While California high school enrollment has risen 15 percent since 2000, the number of classes on computer science or programming fell 34 percent, and the number of teachers assigned to those courses fell 51 percent.

California prides itself as being home to Silicon Valley, but our schools can do little to prepare our students for a career in computing. Schools have no state or federal curriculum standards to follow for computer science -- not as part of Common Core, nor in the Next Generation Science Standards.

When teachers are assigned to teach computer science, California has no computer science certification to insure that they have the appropriate content knowledge. The closest thing to certification is a supplementary authorization in "computer applications and methods" -- in other words, a certificate that says a teacher knows how to use Microsoft Office. That's not computer science. It's not even about computer programming.

Today only 175 of California's 1,325 public high schools offer the advanced placement (AP) course in computer science. More than half of the students are Hispanic or Latino, yet they make up less than 8 percent of those who take the AP exam in computer science. African-Americans represent 6.7 percent of high school students, but they are only 1.5 percent of those taking the AP exam.

In part, it's an issue of equity and access. When computer science is offered, it's usually in the more affluent suburban schools where Latino and African-American students are underrepresented.

Change only happens in response to demand. If your local high school doesn't offer computer science, let the principal or superintendent know how important it is. Build demand. Raise the issue at PTA meetings, and start a parent petition to your school board. And ask lawmakers to establish curriculum standards and teacher certifications in computer science.

Dan Lewis is an associate professor of computer science at Santa Clara University and a founding member of the Alliance for California Computing Education for Students and School (ACCESS). He wrote this for this newspaper.

Salesforce Pours $6M Into SF Schools, Computer Science Education

Posted Sep 12, 2014 by Kim-Mai Cutler (@kimmaicutler) TechCrunch, one of the most visibly involved tech companies in San Francisco local politics and community, said it’s gifting $5 million to the city’s public schools and $1 million to for computer science education.

“We’re really doubling down on what we learned in our first year of creating digital classrooms and we’re really focusing on computer science,” said Foundation President Suzanne DiBianca. Last year, the company’s foundation donated $2.7 million to the city’s middle schools.

The company’s CEO Marc Benioff has been one of the biggest proponents of community involvement in an era when local tech companies have become highly scrutinized for their role in driving living costs higher in the region. The company employs a “1-1-1″ model where it has set aside 1 percent of its equity for a foundation, 1 percent of its employees’ time as community service and 1 percent of its product as a donation.

Not only has it been beneficial for local non-profits, it’s helped Salesforce do things like move its headquarters into what will eventually be the city’s tallest tower in 2017 without the kind of acrimony that companies like Twitter or Google have attracted. Overall, Salesforce has given out more than $68 million in grants, 600,000 hours of employee volunteer time and donated or discounted software licenses to about 23,000 organizations.

With this program, it’s setting aside 5,000 employee hours for volunteership in the city’s middle schools through tutoring, mentorship or field trip chaperoning, and they’re packing 2,000 backpacks for children.

The $5 million grant is the biggest one the company has made in education. Salesforce’s foundation has a grant-giving budget of $20 million per year.

Two of the $5 million will go toward a Principal Innovation Fund where school administrators will get to deploy the money in the way they see fit without any strings attached. The other $3 million will go toward funding full-time technology instructors and supporting 50 “digital classrooms” that are equipped with laptops. One hundred teachers will also go through professional development programs that will help them bone up on computer science or technology enablement in the classroom.

The key part here is that the effort will make computer science an elective in San Francisco’s middle schools. It had just been an after-school offering the year before.

“I’m still pushing for computer science to be added to the common core,” DiBianca said. “Some really large districts are shifting toward realizing that computer science is a really important skill and that they need to start teaching it at school. Some teachers are still trying to figure it out. They just need a little time. I have faith that we’ll get it done in San Francisco and if we keep taking important steps, we’ll be ready to go.”

Computer science education through programs like will help more of the local community participate and get jobs in a technology industry that they might otherwise see as insular.

WSJ: Skills Gap Bumps Up Against Vocational Taboo

Federal, State Governments Push Apprentice Programs, but Find Few Domestic Takers
SVEN BÖLL  Wall Street Journal
Updated Sept. 12, 2014 12:09 p.m. ET

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn.—The Obama administration and governors from Michigan to North Carolina have a solution for some of the U.S. manufacturing sector's woes: German-style apprenticeship programs.

But their success is proving to be unusually one-sided, mostly drawing firms based in Germany and other non-U.S. countries. In North Carolina, "Apprenticeship 2000," a program combining classroom work and on-the-job training, has drawn numerous German companies but so far only two U.S. firms, Ameritech Die & Mold Inc. and Timken Co.

In Michigan, where Republican Gov. Rick Snyder promised last year to "Americanize" the German model in his state, almost three-fourths of the participants are firms based overseas, mostly in Germany.

Both the White House and governors are trying to fight a so-called skills gap among U.S. workers that many businesses blame for the slow labor-market recovery. Although plenty of Americans are looking for work, employers often lament a lack of qualified workers—particularly young people.

Germany, in contrast, has a long record of finding a stronger fit between employees' skills and employers' demands. The success is reflected in a youth unemployment below 8%, the lowest of any advanced country and about half of the U.S. level. The apprenticeship system is credited as a leading driver of what many European economists call the German labor-market "miracle."

"Vocational training is a well-recognized career in Germany that offers good income opportunities, whereas in the U.S. it is often associated with people who did poor at high school," said Robert Lerman, an American University economics professor who studies apprenticeships.

Unlike in the U.S., where workers are largely hired and then trained for a company's particular needs, German vocational training normally takes three years and is supposed to give apprentices a broader qualification beyond a single employer's needs.

Amy Mitchum, center, left her job as a membership manager for a real-estate agency three years ago to join an apprenticeship program run by Volkswagen. Volkswagen Chattanooga

The students, paid by the companies, spend three to four days a week doing on-the-job training within companies and the rest of the time taking classes at public vocational schools. Curricula are developed by employers' associations, trade unions and the federal government. Costs vary but average roughly $20,000 a year, typically for three years.

"The apprenticeship has been the best choice of my professional life," said Amy Mitchum, a 37-year-old Tennessee resident who left her job as a membership manager for a real-estate agency three years ago to join an apprenticeship program run by Volkswagen AG. The German car maker's Automation Mechatronics program gave her what is viewed globally as the gold standard for apprenticeships: a German vocational-training certificate.

She now earns $22 an hour, about 50% more than the median wage in her state. In a few years, she'll likely move up to $30 an hour—alongside benefits including health insurance, a bonus, pension plan and good deals on cars. "I don't see any reason why I might quit this," she said. Now her husband works for Volkswagen, too.

Most U.S. workers avoid the same path for a number of reasons, experts say. Parents and educators tend to generally encourage young Americans to attend college. While businesses have an incentive to hire qualified workers, many resist investing in people who might leave. And the community colleges that are often at the center of apprenticeship programs tend to focus on local interests.

President Barack Obama, who has discussed the German model a number of times, has taken some action. The administration wants to double the number of apprentices within the next five years and plans to launch a $100 million program to expand apprenticeships.

Its success remains uncertain because of the U.S. educational system's decentralized structure. While Germany has national standards for vocational training, it's difficult for federal officials and state governors to set standards for community colleges.

"The power both of the federal and the state governments to push the collaboration between business and colleges on a regional level is limited," said Monika Aring, an adviser to companies who has studied the issue for the International Labor Organization. Also, U.S. companies "are not used to collaborating with each other."

Some corporate executives fear spending money on training could be a bad investment. Christian Koestler, vice president of operations at German manufacturer Stihl Inc. in Virginia Beach, Va., recently presented his vocational-training program to about 20 companies to seek their cooperation.

His American counterparts often asked him, "What if I invest in the people and then they leave?"

His reply: "It would be worse if you didn't invest and they stayed their whole professional lives with you," Mr. Koestler said. Only one company—based in Germany—joined the Stihl apprenticeship program.

At first glance, the fear of misinvestment seems justified. Studies show Americans between the ages of 16 and 25 change their jobs almost eight times, three times as much as Germans in the same age group. But the figures also could prove why the German model works: If companies invest in their workforce, the workers are much more loyal.

That's why Mike Gidley, executive vice president of Pontiac Coil Inc., based near Detroit, thinks a German-style system benefits everyone. "It gives both our apprentices and us a huge competitive advantage," he said. Mr. Gidley is the new chairman of the steering committee of MAT2, the vocational-training system introduced in Michigan. Under the program, firms must invest about $20,000 per person a year, but the apprentice must stay with the employer for at least two more years after the training.

"We have been struggling so long to find the technicians we need," Mr. Gidley said. "The program is exactly what we needed."

Majority of mobile apps will fail basic security tests in the future: Gartner

Summary: The research firm claims that 75 percent of all mobile applications will fail basic security tests next year -- leaving the enterprise vulnerable.

By Charlie Osborne for Between the Lines | ZDNet September 15, 2014 -- 09:59 GMT (02:59 PDT)

Gartner claims that through next year, 75 percent of mobile apps will fail the most basic of security tests.
The research firm says that in 2015, the majority of mobile applications -- whether in the Android, iOS or Windows Phone ecosystems -- will not have basic business-acceptable security protocols in place. This poses a serious problem for the enterprise, where bring-your-own-device (BYOD) schemes are commonplace. Should employees download apps which can access enterprise assets or perform business functions, but have no basic standards of security in place, not only are enterprise security policies at risk of violation but sensitive corporate data and networks may also become vulnerable.

Dionisio Zumerle, principal research analyst at Gartner commented:

"Enterprises that embrace mobile computing and bring your own device (BYOD) strategies are vulnerable to security breaches unless they adopt methods and technologies for mobile application security testing and risk assurance. Most enterprises are inexperienced in mobile application security. Even when application security testing is undertaken, it is often done casually by developers who are mostly concerned with the functionality of applications, not their security."

Zumerle said that existing static application security testing (SAST) and dynamic application security testing (DAST) vendors will need to modify and adjust their tests to address mobile technologies. Both SAST and DAST have been used for the past decade, but mobile applications -- due to their variety and reliance on continually evolving mobile operating systems -- are a fresh challenge.

Gartner believes that in addition to SAST and DAST, new kinds of test based on behavioral analysis are emerging for mobile devices. These tests monitor the GUI and running background applications in order to detect malicious or risky behaviour. For example, a music player which also accesses contact lists or geolocation could be suspicious.

However, this is not necessarily enough -- and enterprise users should also make sure servers, which communicate with mobile devices, are continually tested and protected.

"Today, more than 90 percent of enterprises use third-party commercial applications for their mobile BYOD strategies, and this is where current major application security testing efforts should be applied," noted Zumerle.

"App stores are filled with applications that mostly prove their advertised usefulness. Nevertheless, enterprises and individuals should not use them without paying attention to their security. They should download and use only those applications that have successfully passed security tests conducted by specialized application security testing vendors."

Gartner predicts that by 2017, endpoint breaches will be focused on smartphones and tablets, and "security features that mobile devices offer today will not suffice to keep breaches to a minimum." In addition, the research firm recommends that the enterprise uses application containment -- such as wrapping and software development kits (SDKs) -- to better protect data.

Through 2017, Gartner predicts that 75 percent of mobile security breaches will be the result of mobile application misconfigurations, such as the misuse of personal cloud storage in tandem with enterprise data.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

RHT: 9 Next Big Tech Buzzwords

by Monica Nakamine
September 12, 2014  Robert Half Technology

Buzzwords or buzzkills?
Remember when the term “big data” was a big mystery? Now it’s as pervasive as Facebook users – and so 2012. What newer terms are on the verge of buzzworthiness – and what do they mean?
While some tech terms may never see the light of day beyond IT departments, R&D labs or high-tech meetups, others become part of the general vernacular. What term will be the next “big data”?

Below are a few options that are good contenders for buzzword greatness: