Mike Forster of Mississippi Coding Academies

Mississippi Coding Academies Topic of Testimony at U.S. Senate Hearing

Mike Forster, chairman of Innovate Mississippi and a founder of the Mississippi Coding Academies, was invited by U.S. Senator Roger Wicker to testify in front of the Commerce committee of the Senate this past week.

Forster focused on the opportunity that the coding academies offer to student coders.

Senator Roger Wicker - Mississippi Coding Academies
Senator Roger Wicker invited Mike Forster to testify to the U.S. Senate Commerce committee

“There are a lot of highly motivated young people, who for various reasons, mostly socioeconomic, who are not able to attend a two- or four-year college,” Forster said. “Yet, many of them have the basic analytical and creative skills to become coders, and those jobs will ensure them wages that are equivalent to what many college graduates are going to get.”

At the same time, Forster noted that Mississippi’s colleges and universities aren’t graduating enough coders  Mississippi corporations fill a gap in the number of students who are grading from the state’s universities with the skills to code.

“We just might be helping bridge this enormous gap which exists between high-tech employer needs for entry-level programmers and developers, and the available resources they have from our community colleges and four-year colleges,” Forster said.

In Mississippi alone, there are 1200 open coding positions according to Forster’s testimony; about 250 computer-science graduates come out of Mississippi colleges per year, and half of them leave the state. On the national level, Code.org says there are 500,000 open coding positions and around 50,000 computer science graduates per year.

“At the other end of the spectrum, there are a lot of highly motivated young people, who for various reasons, mostly socio-economic, who are not able to attend a two- or four-year college. And yet many of them have the basic analytical skills and the creative skills to become coders. Those jobs will ensure them wages that are equivalent to what many college graduates are going to get and they are career-type positions, not just dead-end jobs,” Forster said.

Forster testified that 25 coders are going through the program right now, with 130+ candidates at the ready for three more classes that will begin this year, and others planned.

Later, in the Q&A period, Forster noted that one incredibly important component of the Mississippi Coding Academies’ potential success is employer involvement.

(Click for a video link to the session. Mike Forster’s introduction and comments begin at 43:11.)