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C Spire/MSU partner to create tech opportunities

A new pilot program is seeking to help Mississippi students get a head start in the tech field.

The new program, called the C Spire Software Development Pathway, is a partnership between C Spire and Mississippi State’s new Center for Cyber Education. The program will use a customized curriculum from a coding academy in Water Valley to “fast track” the creation of hundreds of new academic and career opportunities in computer science. 

The program will train 30 teachers and give computer science job opportunities for 150 students from selected schools after two years of specialized coursework in high school and one year in community college.

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 a half million students in grades K-12 and place qualified computer science teachers in all the state’s 896 elementary, middle and high schools by 2023-24.

“We need to accelerate our efforts to educate and equip more young people with the computer science skills they need to translate into jobs in the real world,” said Mississippi Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who spoke at a press conference with C Spire and state education leaders to announce 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.”

Curriculum for the pilot program was derived from Base Camp Coding Academy, a successful, non-profit coding academy that started an intense, 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.”

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