In our last few posts, we’ve touched on tech-ed in the state of Mississippi and the United States as a whole. It’s time to take a look at the Southeastern region that many of us call home. When one thinks of the technological field, he or she will typically associate it with regions such as the West coast or the Northeast. New evidence shows that the Southeast is also becoming a hotbed for technological innovation. Can we produce a healthy number of technologically educated individuals to keep up with this growing economy?
Before we get into the tech-ed numbers, let’s talk about the growing field of technology in the Southeast. According to Andrew Thompson of TechFaster, Southeastern cities like Tampa, Charlotte, Jacksonville, and Nashville saw an increase in educated populations between 2000 and 2010. For example, Raleigh experienced a 55.2% growth in residents with bachelor degrees or higher, which made it the third fastest growing ‘smart’ city of the U.S. during that decade. In addition to this influx of highly educated individuals growing the Southeast’s technology sector, the region’s GDP has outperformed all other U.S. regions since 2005 thanks to both the resurgence of manufacturing and the growing technology industry. With this growth, STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) related employment has jumped 17.9% in some of the Southeast’s cities.
So how does our tech-ed in the Southeast shape up when analyzed alongside this continuously booming industry? Overall, it’s a tad paltry. The U.S. Department of Education found that, in the U.S. as a whole, only 16% of high school students are proficient in math and “interested in a STEM career.” When it comes to AP tests in the U.S., a decent portion of American students participate in science and mathematics, but only .7% take the computer science exam. In the Southeast (and other parts of the U.S.), we’re simply not producing enough computer science graduates to fill the demand for computing jobs.
Southeastern states like Alabama, Kentucky, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, and North Carolina do allow for computer science to count towards high school graduation requirements in math and science. Unfortunately, states like Mississippi, Louisiana, and South Carolina represent 3 of the 27 states that do not recognize computer science as a viable option for math and science requirements. For those states that do accept CS, some still lack clear teacher certification pathways and curriculum standards.
According to Code.org, Alabama currently has 3,250 open computing jobs, meaning that this career trajectory is growing at three times the state average, and 26 schools teach computer science. Still, out of nearly 38,000 administered AP exams, fewer than 1,000 students took the AP computer science exam. Louisiana, on the other hand, has 2,313 open computing jobs and only 482 computer science graduates. The overall demand for said jobs is four times greater than it is for all other jobs combined. Georgia leads in tech-ed in the Southeast, as 133 schools teach computer science, and it already has set CS curriculum standards and certification pathways for teachers.
What’s the big take away? The Southeast’s STEM job market is growing at a fast pace, and it’s beginning to become a hotbed of technological innovation. Until we begin producing the number of graduates necessary to fulfill the demands of this market, we can’t flourish like we should. Some states like Alabama have already put initiatives like the Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative (AMSTI) to the test with positive results. Still, there’s an entire generation of potential technological geniuses, especially in places like Mississippi, who’ve yet to encounter the proper tech-ed they need to realize their ability. We’re not waiting around for this to magically happen; rather, we want to make it a reality starting in Lorman, Mississippi with TechEd4TheDelta.
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