October 17, 2018
Contact: Carl Smith
By using successful non-profit model, high school students can launch computer science career one year after graduation
Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum speaks at C Spire event. (Screen capture, C Spire broadcast)
C Spire executives and state education officials unveiled a new pilot program Wednesday [Oct. 17, 2018] that uses customized curriculum developed from a successful non-profit coding academy in Water Valley to fast-track creation of hundreds of new student academic and computer science career opportunities.
The new program, called the C Spire Software Development Pathway, is a public-private partnership between C Spire, a Mississippi-based diversified telecommunications and technology services company, and the Mississippi State University (MSU) Research and Curriculum Unit’s (RCU’s) new Center for Cyber Education (CCE).
Mississippi has an aggressive goal as part of the 2015 Computer Science for Mississippi (CS4MS) initiative to create and deliver standardized computer science curriculum for nearly 500,000 students in grades K-12 and place qualified computer science teachers in all of the state’s 896 elementary, middle and high schools by 2023-2024.
“We need to accelerate our efforts to educate and equip more young people with the computer science skills they need that translate into jobs in the real world,” said Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who spoke at a press conference with C Spire and state education leaders announcing the new program. “Preparing young Mississippians for the good-paying jobs of a high-tech, global economy is critical to our state’s future economic success.”
Under the three-year pilot program, C Spire and state education officials are estimating the new program can deliver 93 percent more Mississippi graduates qualified for entry-level software development jobs than existing programs, which should help close the skills gap for this profession in Mississippi.
“We live in a software-defined world where code and the Internet influence every aspect of our lives,” said C Spire CEO Hu Meena. “Computer science, coding and software development drives innovation and creates jobs in our economy, but we need to do more now to encourage schools to offer courses, equip teachers and enable young people to develop these important skills and pursue IT careers.”
Meena said the main objective of the program is to close the skills gap for qualified software development programmers in the state.
“These students will have an opportunity to receive quality education and training in a short, accelerated time frame with the ability to enter a critical field that businesses of all types and sizes need within one year of graduation.”
The program, which will be fully funded in the first year and partially funded in the second and third years by C Spire, will train 30 teachers and give computer science job opportunities for 150 students from selected schools after two years of specialized course work in high school and one year in community college.
Curriculum for the pilot program was derived from Base Camp Coding Academy, a successful, non-profit coding academy that started a fast-paced,12-month specialized computer coding training regimen for select high school students in 2016.
Every graduate has received job offers from multiple employers.
“I’m thrilled about the partnership that Mississippi State University is joining today with our friends at C Spire,” said MSU President Mark E. Keenum. “The C Spire Software Development Pathway creates boundless opportunities for the state’s future and relies on the expertise of the MSU Research and Curriculum Unit’s Center for Cyber Education in an exciting new collaboration between educators and those on the cutting edge of world-class technologies.”
Recognizing the need for broader partnerships and innovative approaches to help the state reach its aggressive curriculum and teacher training goals, State Superintendent of Education Carey Wright said MSU’s RCU recently formed the CCE, which will focus on K-12 education needs statewide.
“Computer science has become an important part of the K-12 curriculum because students need to be prepared for 21st century careers,” Wright said. “CS4MS initiative will extend computer science education to all students.”
A key partner will be the Mississippi Community Colleges. Dr. Andrea Mayfield, executive director of the Mississippi Community College Board, said the CCE plans to train an instructor from each of the nine participating community colleges, along with a teacher from a partnering high school in the software development curriculum. Each high school teacher will recruit at least 10 students for the program.
“As our economy grows and evolves, career and technical education has experienced a renaissance driven by technologically focused careers with worker skills that businesses need to grow and prosper,” Mayfield said. “The Mississippi Community College Board looks forward to working with the community college presidents, C Spire and MSU’s CCE to further develop this program, which will ultimately create more job opportunities for our young people.”
Workers with a background in computer science are in high demand and short supply in Mississippi. Employers currently have over 1,342 unfilled job openings due to the serious shortage of trained, qualified IT workers. The average salary for qualified IT workers is over $69,000 a year, almost double the statewide average. Nationwide, new research indicates that there will be a shortage of over 1 million software developers in the U.S. by 2020.
Equipping young people with computer science skills is a key part of the C Spire Tech Movement initiative launched last fall to deliver on its promise to help create and retain a 21st century technology workforce in this region that will boost the state’s economy, promote business expansion and improve the overall quality of life.
Other elements of the initiative include massive deployment of broadband Internet for homes and businesses and other leadership initiatives designed to drive adoption and integration of the latest technological innovations, such as smart cities, businesses and homes, artificial intelligence, telemedicine, precision agriculture and the Internet of Things.
C Spire provides a full suite of world-class, customer-inspired dedicated Internet, IP Voice, data, managed services, cloud services, value added resale and mobile communications to businesses and wireless, 1 Gigabit consumer Internet access and related home services for consumers. For more information about C Spire, visit cspire.com or follow the company on Facebook at facebook.com/cspire or Twitter at twitter.com/cspire.
Founded in 1965, the RCU contributes to MSU’s mission as a land-grant institution to better the lives of Mississippians with a focus on improving education. In particular, the RCU benefits K-12 and higher education by developing curricula and assessments, providing training and learning opportunities for educators, researching and evaluating programs, supporting and promoting career and technical education, and leading education innovations. For more information about RCU, rcu.msstate.edu or follow the organization on Facebook at facebook.com/rcumsu or on Twitter at twitter.com/rcumsu.