- Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch
Contrast that to sports, says Atom Factory president and CEO Troy Carter, and you have to wonder whether the tech industry is taking the wrong approach to recruitment.
In a panel on diversity at the Upfront Summit, Carter had a simple idea: What if we started treating computer science in the same way we treat athletics?
Take basketball, for example.
The AAU, or Amateur Athletics Union, is often considered a stepping stone to college basketball and the NBA, for better or worse. AAU teams identify talented athletes while they’re still young and develop them into college prospects.
The program has come under fire for working its young athletes too much, but many coaches defend it. For one, the AAU has excelled at creating a system that can elevate kids out of underprivileged circumstances and put them in front of the scouts and college coaches that give them scholarships to a higher education.
More job openings than the NBA
Even with the large organization, years of training, and flashy tournaments, only a few of the talented recruits will ever make a professional career out of it.
“In the NBA, there’s only room for 450 jobs,” Carter said. “In tech, it’s exponential.”
Yet compare basketball’s feeder system to the hodge-podge landscape of tech recruiting. Despite the number of jobs available to skilled and talented programmers, there’s not a nationwide program to identify young talent, develop it, sponsor it with big names and scholarships, and lift kids out of unfortunate situations along the way.
There are some programs leading the effort, but they are few and far between. Black Girls Code, a program that offers free weekend workshops and summer programs to girls over seven, is a great example of one that is on the forefront.
Large initiatives at schools like Howard University are also fostering and graduating more students in computer science. But many of the students in programs like Howard University’s are discovering computer science for the first time, compared to the kids at some other university programs who have been hacking away on computers since they were seven years old.
Exposure is key to getting more minorities into computer science and developing their skills from a young age, argues Tristan Walker, an African-American entrepreneur who has raised millions for his Bevel shave system and who also spoke on the panel.
“The fact that I didn’t know Silicon Valley existed until I was 24 is a problem,” Walker said.