Coding JC

Instructor Julious Jefferson engages with coding students. (Photo by JC Media Relations)


JC, Laurel High School join in software development pilot program

The “tech-savvy” probably know that “coding” is one of the top jobs in demand. In fact, computer-technology skills are in demand in every career field. 

In an effort to fill those demands, C Spire and Mississippi State University’s Center for Cyber Education have launched a pilot program that includes Laurel High School and Jones College. The statewide initiative created a software-development pathway program for high school juniors in an effort to alleviate the more than 1,300 vacant computing jobs in the state. 

However, finding a teacher for the dual-credit program, when the demand and salary for skilled individuals can easily lure them away from the classroom, required some help and creativity, said Laurel High School’s Career and Technical Center Director Jeannine Agee.

“Individuals with this type of knowledge and experience can make more money working as software developers, compared to a high school teacher’s salary,” Agee said. “We had to look at a way to form a partnership where our students would have access to high-quality instruction from someone with profound experience and knowledge in the area of software development. Through a partnership with Jones College, we are able to offer a hybrid program.” 

Eleven Laurel High School students signed up for the class in coding last fall with aspirations of joining the computer-science field. These students learn skills that prepare them for the possibility of creating their own software-development business and work with clients all over the world. 

Jones College computer science instructor Julious Jefferson teaches the high school students’ college-level HTML coding every Monday and Friday, with students receiving class instruction via live-streaming or online, the other days.

“Considering none of the students had experience in coding before the class, they did great. Having a college-level class and getting that experience has caused them to be more responsible and mature a lot faster,” Jefferson said. “It has also prepared them for future college courses.”

Students selected for the pilot program can take four courses, one each semester in the last two years of high school. Six more courses will be required at the community college level for them to earn a Career Certificate with the opportunity to earn up to 27 college credit hours and several industry certifications, with proper scheduling in high school. Students could then enter the workforce as a junior-level software developer at companies such as C-Spire and FedEx.

“This new software development program offers students the ability to obtain an associate degree and enter the workforce in one year after high school,” Agee said. “Our students need these skills to be informed, productive citizens as well as competent employees.”

With potential starting salaries of $50,000, students such as LHS junior Bryce Harper are taking a closer look at the possibilities of working in computer science-related fields.

“I’ve always been interested in computers, especially programming,” Harper said. “I think it’s amazing that we have self-piloting planes and driverless cars because of technology. I want to be involved in a job that involves this changing technology.”

With the technology demands changing, Jones College Dean of Career and Technical Education Rod Tolbert said the college’s Information Systems Technology program is expanding. Virtual reality, coding and cybersecurity have been added to the computer programming and computer networking programs. 

The pilot program with Laurel High School and the changes to the IST program at Jones are expected to help meet the growing global demands for skilled computer science and technology workers.

“Coding jobs are projected to grow twice as fast as other job markets,” said Tolbert. “According to the MSU Center for Cyber Education, nationally, there are 500,000 coding job openings in the United States in every industry and in every state. Jones hopes to be able to be a part of the solution with the pilot program and the additional components we’ve included in our computer science programs.”

Agee said the Laurel High School Career and Technical Center’s goal is to target students who will be successful in the software development pathway by collaborating with Laurel Middle School. By identifying students through interest inventories and academic performance, students will be invited to be a part of the school’s Coding Club and on track for the Software Development Pathway.

Educators and C Spire are hopeful more students will pursue computer science-related careers with the implementation of the pilot program.

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