Mississippi Coding Academies Training Over 80 Coders in 2021-22, Receives $215,000 from USDA for Expansion
Over 80 Mississippians have begun their 11-month, tuition-free journey to becoming junior coders at the Mississippi Coding Academies via four different locations in the state. Nearly 50 coders have gotten started at two Jackson-area locations—downtown and the new South Jackson location. About 30 more have started on the Gulf Coast and in the Golden Triangle region, beginning the year via remote learning.
In September, the USDA announced a $215,000 grant for the Mississippi Coding Academies, designed to increase access for rural student coders. MCA currently works with Columbus Public Schools and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians on remote-access coding education programs, further increasing the reach of the Mississippi Coding Academies.
“In our first four years, the Coding Academies have graduated over 100 full-stack junior coders,” said Mike Forster, board president for MCA. “With the support of the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, USDA, Mississippi Development Authority and many others, we’re now poised to nearly double that impact in this next academic year alone.”
The South Jackson campus was added for the 2021-22 cohort, enabling the Jackson-area instructors to scale from about 20 students to over four dozen coders. MCA Board member Willie Jones is CEO and President of Dependable Source Corp., which provided the large, high-tech space in order to expand MCA’s capacity and reach more underserved young people in South Jackson and Hinds County.
The University of Southern Mississippi directly supports the new Gulf Coast campus, which is already gaining interest from employers in the region.
“We’re excited to get this off the ground in 2021,” said Dr. Sarah Lee, MCA board member and director of USM’s School of Computing Sciences and Computer Engineering. “We’ve got a great learning space with the help of the city of Biloxi, our instructors are in place, and we’re ready to welcome our first class of coders this summer.”
The Gulf Coast campus of the Mississippi Coding Academies follows the same 11-month, full-time schedule that other MCA campuses employ to immerse the coders in a real-world environment and get them ready for the job market. The program is tuition-free for the coders, and recent high-school graduates are welcome, as are those who have had some college—or even mid-career professionals.
Coders on the Gulf Coast have started learning virtually but will hopefully soon be able to meet in person, will learn from the full-stack coding curriculum employed at other MCA campuses, with one addition. Dr. Lee says they plan to add a cybersecurity module to successfully prepare coders to complete a CompTIA Security+ certification.
“Cybersecurity certification will add to the employment options for our coders,” Dr. Lee said. “We’ve gotten very favorable feedback from companies and public-sector employers on the Coast.”
As with other MCA campuses, the Gulf Coast campus will rely on area employers and corporate partners for internships and feedback on the program. With proximity to technology-oriented employers such as the Stennis Space Center, the Roger Wicker Center for Ocean Enterprise, and Kessler Air Force Base, the Biloxi campus is well-positioned to take advantage of some exceptional resources.
The Golden Triangle campus has relocated to the Communiversity at Golden Triangle Global Industrial Aerospace Park, making it easier to access from Starkville, Columbus, and surrounding towns. Students are studying the coding language C# and learning the fundamentals of coding—creating variables, building statements, crafting functions and managing strings.
To apply to the Mississippi Coding Academies, individuals don’t have to have prior coding experience, although interest in math, gaming, and problem-solving is encouraged, as is a willingness to commit to the 11-month program. Those who complete the program graduate as junior full-stack coders with salary potential of $40,000 or more in their first year.