STEM & STEAM

Maryland Boosting CS Focus in K-12

Maryland has ramped up efforts to get more students trained in computer science subjects with several new initiatives, including the first "Governor's Club Challenge," intended to draw more girls into coding, and assigning a task force to figure out what pathways are needed between education and open jobs in the state.

Maryland has ramped up efforts to get more students trained in computer science subjects with several new initiatives, including the first "Governor's Club Challenge," intended to draw more girls into coding, and assigning a task force to figure out what pathways are needed between education and open jobs in the state.

Governor Larry Hogan kicked off "Achieving Computer Science Collaborations for Employing Students Statewide" (ACCESS) just a few months after signing on for Governors for Computer Science, a partnership of state leaders that have committed to increasing access to K-12 CS education.

By executive order and proposed legislation, the governor hopes to improve job readiness for graduates and draw a more diversified workforce to computing jobs. Currently, according to the governor's office, Maryland has 115,000 CS-related jobs in-state, with almost 20,000 openings. Demand for CS workers is expected to grow by another 12 percent over the next decade. Yet, state colleges and universities graduated fewer than 3,000 CS majors in 2015, just a fifth of whom were female.

Maryland is home to several cyber-related federal government agencies and military installations, including the National Security Agency, the U.S. Cyber Command and the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence. The state has 1,200 private sector cybersecurity companies. And 17 Maryland universities, colleges and community colleges have been designated as national centers of academic excellence in cyber defense.

Governor Hogan's Executive Order 01.01.2017.27 requested that the state's Task Force on Cybersecurity and Information Technology study the development of pathways that meet targeted workforce needs in computing fields and identify new ways to promote gender and minority equity in the STEM and IT workforce. A report on the findings will be due in June 2018.

The governor also announced that he would support legislation during the 2018 General Assembly session to implement computer science standards statewide for K-12 students. The administration said it would work with the state's teachers as well representatives from higher education and computer science organizations to develop those.

Additionally, the governor will be allocating $5 million to fund teacher professional development in CS and offer grants to districts and schools to create training models and equipment.

"This kind of investment in secondary school STEM infrastructure is exactly what is needed to meet the long-term requirement of cybersecurity workforce development," said Bruce Spector, Task Force member and President of Baltimore Cyber Range, a cyber security training company, in a prepared statement. "With the large number of open jobs and the lack of qualified applicants available to fill these requirements we need strategic as well as out-of-the-box thinking. What the Governor has come up with is a great way to start filling the gap. It is a perfect allocation of resources and will pay the State great dividends in employment gains for the long term."

The governor also said his office would team up with Girls Who Code to launch the challenge, which would promote partnerships among state and local leaders, school districts, community organizations and industry to launch new clubs statewide. These clubs offer free after-school programs that allow female students in grades 6-12 grade to learn and apply CS to help their communities with the support of peers and role models.

"The policy changes and Governor's Club Challenge will help build a pipeline of female coders, changing not only their lives, but the lives of those who will benefit from the innovations they create," said Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code. "When you teach a girl to code, you're giving her a path into the middle class and giving her a say in her future and the future of her world."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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