Through a great deal of persistence and dedication, Tristan Walker rose from being the child of a single mother in Queens, NY to working as the head of business development at Foursquare. He has since left Foursquare to work on his own projects. One of his projects is CODE2040, a foundation that seeks to get minority college students internships at IT firms.

Per the CODE2040 website, projections indicate that by 2020, there will be one million unfilled software jobs. From the figures provided by CODE2040, racial and ethnic minorities stand to gain the most from entering the field, as computer science jobs command a starting salary roughly twice the median household income of Black and Latino families, and the unemployment rate for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workers is lower than other fields, while the unemployment rate for racial and ethnic minorities is three times the national average. The other point that is widely emphasized by CODE2040 is that the United States will be majority-minority by the year 2040 according to demographers. This projection is the basis for the name CODE2040.

In 2012, CODE2040 placed five college students (as part of a pilot program) in internships with Hawthorne Labs, Jawbone, Nutrivise, Rockmelt, and Tumblr. In 2013, 18 students have been placed in internships at various places, including Facebook, Foursquare, Code for America, and the Department of Technology of the City and County of San Francisco. CODE2040 plans to expand to match more students to internship positions in 2014. Find out how your organization can become a partner of CODE2040. Or, if you’re a student, visit the CODE2040 site to learn how to apply for a tech internship.

Real diversity vs. manufactured diversity

In the United States, the educational system is not doing enough to encourage high school students of any race to get a computer science degree. A symptom of this problem is the continued abuse of the H-1B visa program, which has been used to allow foreign nationals with technical expertise in under-served fields to live and work in the United States. This year, IBM was fined $44,000 for allegedly stating a preference for H-1B and F-1 visa holders over U. S. citizens. Infosys reached a $34 million settlement for allegedly improperly using B-1 business visas (temporary business permits) to avoid the limitations on the number of H-1B employment visas.

Earlier this year, NPR ran a story about aging programmers being pushed aside in favor of H-1B visa applicants. In that story, Bruce Morrison notes that H-1B visa applicants tend to be less demanding than Americans and have greater choices on where they will accept work.

Last year, IT journalist Robert X. Cringely wrote a long exposé on the history, misconceptions, and abuses of the H-1B visa system and how it depresses wages for U.S. citizens.

Final thoughts

CODE2040’s push to focus on and develop homegrown talent from high performing Black and Latino students across the United States underscores the fact that Americans are capable of performing these jobs — when properly trained — and the development of homegrown talent would (at least in theory) signal a reduced need for employees on H-1B visas.
With Bloomberg declaring that the American Dream is fading for Generation Y professionals, it is vital to the continued economic prosperity of the country to ensure that current college students be given a fair shake at the job market, particularly in growth sectors such as IT. CODE2040 is at the forefront of that effort.