BOZEMAN, Mont. - We told you how RightNow Technologies Founder Greg Gianforte introduced a new initiative for high school students a the Economic Jobs Summit Tuesday as a way to get them involved in computer programming at a younger age. We wanted to know more about Code Montana and why Gianforte thinks computer programming is so important to Montana's economy.
As he told a room full of people at the economic summit, RightNow Technologies Founder Greg Gianforte tells us hundreds of high paying jobs in Montana- jobs paying between $45,000 and $85,000 a year- are going unfilled because there aren't enough high school students in the state choosing to pursue computer science.
It's why he says he's trying to get the word out, computer science is a real career and there's opportunities for Montana kids.
"People think that computer scientists just sit in closets and code and stare at screens all day and that's just not the case," says Gianforte.
Gianforte tells us a lot of folks have misperceptions about technology jobs and the technology industry.
He says he hopes high school kids who think they might be interested in the field will check out Code Montana, the brain child of Gianforte and Montana Programmers Association's Rob Irizarry.
"It's a way to just kind of wet their whistle a little bit with computer programming to see if they might want to pursue it in college. It won't prepare them for a job but it's enough to introduce them to computer programming to decide if they like it or not," explains Gianforte.
We asked Gianforte why it's important for high school students to decide at such a young age. He explains the coursework is rigorous in college.
"If you enter college thinking you're going to do an English degree, there's nothing wrong with an English degree, but it's very hard to transfer into computer science or engineering," Gianforte says.
For those who are interested, Gianforte tells us all sorts of opportunities open up once you've laid the foundation through a computer science degree. While at RightNow, he explains, folks with a computer science degree worked with customers, traveled around the world doing software development installs and even planned new products.
"If we didn't have the technical people, we couldn't have hired everybody else so, if we want a vibrant economy particularly in high tech, we need to get more people in computer science," says Gianforte.
Some teachers at Bozeman High School tell us kids who are interested in coding end up going home and doing it by themselves. They say Code Montana gives teens the resources they need to get more involved and to learn more about coding.
"We need to get coding back and it's really hard to just start a class in school," says Bozeman High School Business Teacher Kerri Cobb.
Cobb says Code Montana gives students interested in coding a place to go to harness their talents and learn the basics to create a solid foundation.
"Just basic step by step instructions about how to create something wonderful that works," explains Bozeman High School Junior Hans Jinneman.
We sat down with Jinneman and Bozeman High School Junior Adam Titus. They tell us they know they want to make a living through computer programming and though they're not new to programming, they explain the software they can access through Code Montana has helped them hone their skills.
"I've tried to code before and there were just things that I couldn't get, I just couldn't do it, but this really simplifies it to the point where it's step by step and even points to where I'll go ahead and learn new stuff and go back and solve the problems that I did earlier much faster in simpler ways because I can," explains Titus.
The two agree the site is an asset for other kids who want to give programming a try.
"It'll help with confusion in the coding world," says Jinneman.
And folks like Cobb tell us it also gives students a peer circle and the confidence to pursue computer technology.
Gianforte tells us 75 kids signed up for Code Montana on its first day. He says private sources funded the project for up to 1000 kids. That's the goal.