Mississippi making strides in push for more computer science edu

Mississippi making strides in push for more computer science education in schools

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Gov. Bryant issues proclamation calling for continued efforts to boost Magnolia State's future technology workforce

JACKSON, Miss., Dec. 22, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Mississippi technology, education and business leaders are joining forces to push for more emphasis on computer science education in schools as Gov. Phil Bryant unveiled a proclamation declaring December as Computer Science Education month in the Magnolia State.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Byant is pushing for more computer science education in schools as he signs a proclamation declaring December as Computer Science Education Month in the Magnolia state.  With Bryant are prominent Mississippi technology, business and economic development leaders who are involved in the education and job development efforts.

C Spire and representatives from Innovate Mississippi, Mississippi Development Authority and Kids Code Mississippi have been on the front lines of efforts to create more job opportunities in the state's information economy and joined Bryant Thursday at the Governor's office in downtown Jackson to discuss the issue.

Bryant cited participation by 52 school districts and more than 15,000 students in the second year of a computer science pilot program developed by the Mississippi Department of Education and Mississippi State's Research and Curriculum Unit as a welcome sign of progress in efforts to boost interest and participation in IT education fields and job opportunities.

The governor also drew special attention to some dramatic gains the state made in encouraging high school students to take the advanced placement computer science exam.  From 2016 to this year, the number of students taking the test rose from 16 to 105, a 556 percent year-over-year increase and the highest percentage jump in the nation ahead of Idaho and Alabama.

Brad Carpenter, vice president of IT for C Spire, said the signs of progress are welcome, but the state needs to pursue more public-private partnerships and explore ways to improve and accelerate efforts in Mississippi to boost student interest in information technology and advance teacher skills, professional development and classroom instruction in computer science.

Carpenter said company-sponsored coding challenges and support for other public and private non-profit programs like the Base Camp Coding Academy, Mississippi Coding Academy, Hour of Code and the state's computer science education push are designed to help C Spire deliver on its promise to help create and retain a 21st century technology workforce in this region.

Workforce development is a key part of the broader C Spire Tech Movement initiative designed to leverage the company's technology leadership and investments to help transform its service areas. 

Other elements of the program include creation of a state-of-the-art digital customer care platform for customers and team members, massive deployment of broadband internet for homes and businesses and other leadership initiatives to drive innovation and development of a 21st century technology workforce.

Workers with a background in computer science are in high demand and short supply in Mississippi.  Employers currently have over 1,200 unfilled job openings due to the serious shortage of trained, qualified IT workers, Carpenter said.  The average salary for qualified IT workers is nearly $69,000 a year, almost double the statewide average.

"With the shortage of qualified information technology professionals growing every day, we need to move decisively and quickly to equip teachers and inspire students to pursue computer science education and career paths that will help us meet the needs of our growing digital economy," said Carpenter, who participated in Thursday's program.

Nationwide, new research estimates the current shortage of 607,708 IT workers will balloon to over 1 million software developers in the U.S. by 2020.  "The inventor of the next big thing, the latest app or cutting-edge software may be sitting in a Mississippi classroom waiting to be inspired and encouraged to become a leader in the new digital economy," Carpenter said.

Carpenter said C Spire is doing its part to encourage high school students to pursue a degree and career in information technology and computer science.  The company has hosted two computer coding challenges this year for high school students across the state, reaching 43 high schools and over 200 students.

The day-long C3 program teaches students to use critical thinking and problem solving skills to solve a fresh computer coding challenge during the competition.  Teams compete for college scholarships and other tech-related prizes.  C Spire assigns employees with IT backgrounds and experience to help each team navigate the challenges. 

"We live in a software-defined world where code and the internet directly impacts every aspect of our lives," Carpenter said.  "Computer science drives innovation and creates jobs in our economy, but we need to do more to encourage schools to offer courses, equip teachers and enable young people to pursue IT careers and computer science degrees."

About C Spire

C Spire is a leading technology company committed to transforming Mississippi through the C Spire Tech Movement, which includes the massive deployment of broadband internet to homes and small businesses, a state-of-the-art digital experience for its customers and team members, technology innovation leadership and the creation and retention of a 21st century technology workforce in its region.  The company provides world-class, customer-inspired wireless communications, 1 Gigabit consumer Internet access as well as a full suite of dedicated Internet, wireless, IP Voice, data and cloud services for businesses.  This news release and other announcements are available at www.cspire.com/news. For more information about C Spire, visit www.cspire.com or follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cspire or Twitter at www.twitter.com/cspire.

C Spire (PRNewsFoto/C Spire) (PRNewsFoto/C Spire) (PRNewsFoto/C Spire)

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