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Coding academy will benefit area

It took extra work and commitment from the Brookhaven Public Schools and Copiah-Lincoln Community College to be accepted into a pilot program with other public school districts and community colleges across Mississippi. The foresight of both local education leaders should benefit our area for years to come.

The seeds of this project began three years ago in Water Valley when a local businessman decided he wanted to find a way to open doors to local technically minded high school students. Partnering with C Spire, the Base Camp Coding Academy signed up its first class in 2016 to a group of recently graduated high school seniors. Following the first year FedEx hired every graduate of the program. C Spire, despite helping develop and fund the program, was left empty handed.

Not to be daunted C Spire doubled down on the concept and began working with the Mississippi Department of Education to introduce the idea to the state’s public schools and community colleges. The pilot program named the C Spire Software Development Pathway will begin here at Brookhaven High School and 10 other school districts across the state next fall. Co-Lin and seven other community colleges will also be deeply involved as will Mississippi State University’s Center for Cyber Education.

Students who enroll in the program will receive two years of specialized high school courses and one year of community college courses then receive an associates degree of applied science.

Computer coding is intertwined into everything we do these days from TVs and everyday household appliances to smart phones, home computers, tablets and in the future driverless cars and who knows what else. As business and industry adapt they need a new level of specially trained individuals who can write the computer script that allows those products to function.

Because of a shortage of trained and qualified Information Technology (IT) workers there are 974 job openings right now in Mississippi with an average salary of $69,000. Not a bad salary for a 20 year old!

Brookhaven’s involvement in the program gives us the upper hand in economic development opportunities across the state over the next few years. With a pool of qualified and trained IT workers in the community we will have something other communities do not when industrial prospects come knocking.

As C Spire CEO Hu Meena wrote recently, “Technology and our U.S. economy are increasingly driven by software. Those who possess the knowledge, creativity and vision to program and manage software have an advantage over everyone else… There are tremendous economic and job opportunities for people who live and work in places that quickly adapt to the new digital economy.”

Starting next fall Brookhaven will be one of those places.

— By Bill Jacobs