Amazon announced Tuesday that the megaretailer is expanding its computer science education program, Amazon Future Engineer, to more than 5,000 schools, benefitting over 550,000 students in need each year. The expansion more than doubles Amazon Future Engineer’s reach, adding more than 3,000 new schools across the U.S.

Nearly all Amazon Future Engineer schools serve a student body with a significant percentage of students from groups currently underrepresented in computer science and tech, hundreds of schools are rural, and more than 80 percent are Title I schools. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Amazon Future Engineer coursework can be done virtually to help ensure students stay on track and continue to prepare for the jobs of the future.

“The start of this new school year is unlike any before, with students, parents, and teachers adjusting to remote learning,” said Jeff Wilke, Amazon’s CEO for Worldwide Consumer. “This is a challenge for all students, but particularly those from underserved and underrepresented communities. We are hopeful that our Amazon Future Engineer coursework, which adapts easily to a virtual setting, will continue to equip these hard-working students with the skills they’ll need—and that society will need—for a bright future.”

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that from 2014 to 2024, the market for computer science professionals will grow twice as fast as the rest of the labor market and, in 2019, the median annual salary for computer science occupations was approximately $48,000 greater than the median wage for all occupations in the U.S.

What’s more, while the number of Black students obtaining STEM degrees has increased over the last two decades, Black professionals remain underrepresented within American science and engineering enterprises. The National Science Board (NSB) estimates that the number of Black professionals in science and engineering must more than double to be representative of Black people in the U.S. population in 2030.

“I’m very excited that Amazon Future Engineer is in 14 high schools and 5 elementary schools in and around my district of Matteson, IL. By exposing our young people to the fun and cutting edge engineering and computer science, we can spark a lifelong curiosity and interest in them that opens the door to fulfilling careers,” said Congresswoman Robin Kelly. “I’m hopeful that programs like these will lead to a tech workforce that better represents America.

“This fall has brought about huge changes in teaching and learning for all of us,” said Lisa Bagley, Amazon Future Engineer Teacher of the Year Award Recipient, from West Mesquite High School in Texas. “My district has returned to school in a virtual setting, and the flexibility of having our Amazon Future Engineer computer science curriculum available online anytime anywhere has given me much-needed support and consistency in a world of a lot of unknowns.

“For my students, it’s especially important that they can stay on track during this challenging time,” Bagley added. “It’s becoming more and more clear that the skills they’re picking up in their computer science coursework will be critical to whatever career they choose to pursue.”

Amazon’s funding will support more than 1,000 elementary schools and more than 4,000 middle and high schools with high-quality computer science courses, online support, and teacher professional development. Amazon Future Engineer’s expansion to elementary schools helps bridge equity skill gaps at a critical age, when students are just beginning to formulate ideas about their futures.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Amazon employees are volunteering virtually in Amazon Future Engineer classrooms, talking to the students about the importance of their own computer science education. Amazon Future Engineer also launched the Amazon Cyber Robotics Challenge – a free, virtual, first of its kind coding competition that teaches students the basics of computer science in the context of a real-life industry challenge. Teachers from Title I schools who complete this competition will also be eligible for free, expanded virtual robotics lessons to further support their students while they learn from home.

In addition to supporting computer science education, Amazon is supporting communities in a range of ways during the COVID-19 pandemic. The company has donated more than 13,000 laptops to students in need, distributed more than $5 million worth of Amazon devices to help healthcare workers and nonprofits, delivered more than 6 million meals across 25 U.S. cities, launched free, virtual computer science resources for thousands of students, donated more than $20 million to help accelerate COVID-19 research, donated $10 million in critically needed PPE supplies, and more.

Amazon has sent cities into a frenzy since announcing plans to open another headquarters in North America. (File Photo)

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