FAST FOWARD MISSISSIPPI initiative project aims to raise awareness of digital skills education among students, teachers, and parents as part of Innovation Month.

kcm-logo1Students in 36 schools across 14 school districts will participate in a series of coordinated coding workshops on Monday, November 3, 2014. The workshops will serve the purpose of raising awareness for the need for digital skills education among elementary and middle-school aged children.

The workshops are a featured event of Mississippi Innovation Month and are organized by a partnership among the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL), the Mississippi Department of Education, (MDE) and Mississippi-based creative firm Maris, West & Baker (MWB). The workshops are a part of the Fast Forward Mississippi initiative – an organization focused on stopping the brain drain in Mississippi.

“Several decades ago we moved away from an industrial economy into a service economy,” said MWB vice president and event co-organizer Randy Lynn. “Now we’re seeing the shift into a knowledge economy. Skills such as coding will be key to developing a workforce that is competitive in this new environment.”

The workshops will feature a specialized tutorial video authored by MWB that instruct kids on the basics of coding and also takes them through a simple project. Content for the workshops will be hosted at KidsCodeMS.org.

“It is our goal that these workshops really open the eyes of students, teachers, and parents alike,” said Marsha Watson, co-organizer and Director of the College Knowledge Project at IHL. “Skills like coding allow for underserved communities and at-risk students to become creators rather than users, and earn a great living doing it.”

According to Code.org, by the year 2020 there will exist more than one million coding intensive jobs in the United States, with only an estimated 400,000 workers eligible to fill those positions. KidsCodeMS organizers see an opportunity for Mississippi to take a leadership position in the knowledge economy.

“We know the jobs will be there and will be good jobs,” said Mike Mulvihill, co-organizer and Associate Superintendent with the Mississippi Department of Education. “By preparing our students with high-end 21st century workforce skills, we foresee an opportunity to not just compete in the knowledge economy, but be a real hub of it.”

One advantage for a state like Mississippi is that computer science and digital-based jobs do not require significant investments in infrastructure or sizable working capital to be successful. This means that knowledge workers will be able to stay in Mississippi and be high wage earners, contributing significantly to the state’s resources.

“What’s really exciting about envisioning a knowledge-based workforce is how it gives Mississippi the opportunity to leap to the front of the pack in terms of economic development,” said Tim Mask, co-organizer, MWB vice president, and founder of Fast Forward Mississippi. “With a $400 laptop, a high-speed internet connection, and a knowledge of coding, entrepreneurs can found a B2B software company or build video game applications. And they can do that right here in Mississippi.”

For more information visit:   kidscodems.org  •  msinnovationeconomy.com  •  FastForward.ms

Follow Kids Code Mississippi on Twitter.

Contact Tim Mask