Digital literacy to build a knowlege workforce: #DEV4MS

One of the the signature projects of the Fast Forward Mississippi initiative is Kids Code Mississippi. On it’s face, Kids Code MS is a program to promote awareness of and access to coding education for Mississippi school-aged children. But we also don’t hide the fact that the underlying goal of the program is to develop an advanced in-state skilled knowledge workforce pipeline, the kind that 21st century tech companies and entrepreneur endeavors need to thrive.

We see the Kids Code MS project as two-fold: first, the program can provide digital generation skills to all students in Mississippi, but we also see it as a conduit to create opportunity within communities who have traditionally lacked access to education and job training necessary to improve quality of life. We believe the Mississippi is practically tailor made for this type of project to dramatically raise the fortunes of our undeserved, and thus the fortunes of the state overall.

Depending on the source of information, minorities make up anywhere from 2% – 5% of the workforce in Silicon Valley. Women are also significantly under-represented. And women of color barely even register at all. Mississippi’s African-American population percentage is the highest in the country. Mississippi’ s population of those at or near the poverty level (of all ethnicity) is also among the highest, if not the highest. But we do have tremendous potential. Efforts to build out intelligent communities and high-speed internet access are progressing on a statewide in Mississippi faster than anywhere else. Our kids are bright and ambitious. If we think of our state as a laboratory for digital workforce development, we have the capability to help close the gap of under-representation of minorities in Silicon-valley type companies. And in fact attract many such companies and entrepreneurs here to the state to tap into this potential. That creates high-value companies, high-paying jobs, and ultimately economic improvement.

TerryWinners_KidsCode

The winning team at DEV4MS: Terry

The first Saturday of May, 2015, the Kids Code Mississippi project held the first full-day “hackathon” with high school students (from Terry High School). You can read about the event at the Kids Code MS website. What we would like to point out is the winning team of the event – all African-American, and all female. The single most under-represented group of knowledge workers in the country. We’re not surprised by the results. We hope this is just the beginning of a clarion call to Silicon Valley and other knowledge-industry entities – Mississippi is poised to be the next great pipeline of knowledge workers. A little investment will go a long way.

Congratulations to all the participants in the hackathon at Terry High School. Much more on the way soon.

 

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