Mississippi Coding Academies Receive $1 Million Grant from W.K. Kellogg to Expand in Jackson

Jackson, Miss. (December 12, 2017) – The W.K. Kellogg Foundation has awarded Innovate Mississippi a three-year, $1 million grant to help the newly formed Mississippi Coding Academies grow their current program in the city of Jackson from one academy to four academies over the next three years. The goal is to dramatically increase the number of Jackson-based computer coders trained by the innovative, high-tech workforce-development program.

The Mississippi Coding Academies is a private/public initiative launched as a joint effort between Innovate Mississippi and the Mississippi Development Authority, with support from the Mississippi Community College Board, Hinds Community College, East Mississippi Community College and the Mississippi Works initiative. The Jackson-based Coding Academy kicked off its inaugural class on October 23, 2017, with 19 students engaged in a 11-month intense workplace-simulated environment designed to teach high-demand computer coding skills to post-secondary students.

“We are excited and grateful to receive this generous award from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. These funds will help us expand the program and ensure more aspiring young men and women in the Jackson area receive training and job-placement opportunities for a career in computer coding,” Mike Forster, chairman of the Innovate Mississippi board of directors, said. “There are currently more than a thousand open computer-related jobs in the state of Mississippi alone and that number is expected to grow. This program creates a career path for students who are not college-bound and supports employers who are searching for qualified candidates to fill these open positions.”

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s investment is designed to give low-income young adults in Jackson access to high-quality, sustainable-wage coding and business “soft” skills training. In less than a year, graduating coders are ready for well-paying technology employment through direct access to high-growth companies in Mississippi.

This award will cover about one-third of the operating expenses for the Jackson-based Academies to be matched by private sector funding in the second and third year. MDA coordinated most of the funding for the first year.

“To ensure that we produce highly skilled coders, we are working closely with employers to help guide the curriculum, and to provide mentoring and job-shadowing opportunities. We’re also seeking financial and instructional support from Mississippi companies to ensure that our graduates are ready to hit the ground running at the completion of the program,” Rich Sun, Innovate Mississippi’s entrepreneur-in-residence and board member, said. “We welcome any and all Mississippi employers who want to be a part of this effort.”

“The Kellogg grant is making a positive impact on the lives of students in Mississippi by helping them find a pathway to meaningful, well-paying careers,” said MDA Executive Director Glenn McCullough, Jr. “Adding additional Coding Academy classes exposes more students to life-changing educational opportunities. We appreciate the foundation’s support and we are proud to be on the same team.”

In addition to the Jackson classes, the Columbus-based Academy launched in early December with direct support from the Columbus Municipal School District, and Innovate Mississippi has plans to expand this model to various locations throughout Mississippi. A collaboration with faculty at Mississippi universities is in the planning stages to set operational metrics, validate the processes and create documentation that will enable rapid scaling of coding academies across the state. The ultimate goal is a replicable model that could be used nationally to educate more coders and increase opportunities for underprivileged youth.

The Academies aim to prepare highly motivated high school graduates who are not bound for college or junior college for careers in technology; reduce the shortage of available coding professionals in the state; and establish Mississippi as a high-growth location for the fields of coding and technology.

For more information or to apply for Mississippi Coding Academies please visit our website www.mscode.staging.wpengine.com for details.

Mississippi Coding Academies is a Mississippi non-profit corporation operating under the fiscal sponsorship of Innovate Mississippi, a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation.

Innovate Mississippi is a nonprofit organization with the mission to drive innovation and technology-based economic development for the State of Mississippi. Visit www.innovate.ms to learn more.

Mississippi Development Authority is the state’s lead economic and community development agency. MDA focuses on new business recruitment, existing business expansion, workforce training, and tourism promotion. For more information, visit MDA’s website at www.mississippi.org.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life.

The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Michigan, and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti. For more information, visit www.wkkf.org.