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Kindergarten coders

U.S. CTO Megan Smith says building a technology workforce begins in grade school.

One month into her role as U.S. chief technology officer, former Googler Megan Smith has recognized that one of the biggest challenges facing government IT is bringing in top talent.

"The American people should interact with our government through the kinds of technologies that we interact with in general -- mobile services, websites -- and we want to be able to be as good as the commercial sector," Smith said at the Washington Ideas Forum on Oct. 29. "So we want the talent from the commercial sector to not only come in some leadership roles but to also get hold of some of those types of technologies for our services."

How will the government's and the private sector's need for top talent be met?

Training for technology jobs starts in the classroom, Smith said, adding that students should begin learning to code at the same time they are learning to read.

In Vietnam, children learn to code starting in the second grade, and China and the United Kingdom are following suit, she said. She counts herself as lucky that participating in the science fair was mandatory at her Buffalo, N.Y., high school.

Coding "is an important skill," Smith said. "It doesn't mean everyone should be a programmer, but it's a 21st-century skill to be able to make as much as write."

About the Author

Colby Hochmuth is a former staff writer for FCW.

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