TWIN FALLS — It was a coding activity in eighth-grade that sparked Jacob Buscher’s interest in computer science. Four years later, the Twin Falls 17-year-old is operating his own software development company.

On Wednesday, he helped out classmates with “Hour of Code“ activities at Twin Falls High School. Across the Magic Valley, many school campuses are also getting involved as part of Computer Science Education Week.

The purpose is to encourage more students to get interested in computer science as a possible career. There’s a huge demand for employees and a growing number of high-paying jobs.

“There’s a massive deficit of people to fill jobs in this industry, especially around here,” Jacob said.

In an increasingly technology-reliant era, coding is becoming more crucial. It’s used, for example, to create computer software, websites and mobile applications.

Just about everything is run using coding, Jacob said, but many people don’t understand how it works. With the worldwide Hour of Code, “it’s getting (students) a little bit more knowledge of how it runs.”

For those who are knowledgeable and skilled at computer programming, there are huge benefits. Here in Idaho, software developers and computer systems employees rank number one on the Idaho Department of Labor‘s “hot jobs” list. The number of jobs is expected to grow nearly 37 percent between 2014 and 2024, with an estimated 259 openings each year. Jobs typically require a bachelor’s degree and the median hourly wage is $39.52.

To help address the nationwide shortage and expose more students to coding, the nonprofit Code.org provides free online tutorials. Twin Falls High and other schools across the Magic Valley are using the tutorials this week for the Hour of Code. Some tutorials are even based on popular movies and games, such as Minecraft and Star Wars.

It’s the fourth year Jacob has volunteered to help his peers during the Hour of Code.

All eight science teachers at Twin Falls High gave up an instructional day Wednesday to accommodate the lesson.

“We’re trying to hit every student at every level,” computer science teacher Sarah LaMarche said.

Students could stick with a basic coding tutorial, she said, or move on to more advanced lessons.

In the Jerome School District, all three elementary schools — Summit, Horizon and Jefferson — are doing Hour of Code activities this week during computer lab time, curriculum director Janet Avery said.

Some classes at Jerome Middle School and Jerome High School are also participating.

For Jacob, the Hour of Code is what led to his interest in computer science. “It’s taken off since then,” he said.

Jacob has found work writing code, including for a publishing company. And as a high school sophomore, he created his own company called BF Innovative Technologies.

In October, he filed as a limited liability company with the help of his parents, who run Business Techs.

As for Hour of Code, a focus this year at Twin Falls High was showing students the basics of algorithms — the actual code that goes into creating a program — and its real-life applications, Jacob said.

Coding may seem intimidating when looking at the whole picture. But “when you break down programs into algorithms,” he said, “it’s not complicated at all.”

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