TechConnect spearheads effort to get West Virginians trained
Column By Anne Barth, TechConnect West Virginia
With ever-increasing advances in technology, there is one thing we DO know. Coding — the process of writing computer programs to analyze data, manage digital systems and operate today’s machinery and consumer products — will become more and more important.
In fact, coding has been called the most important job skill of the future. Experts point to the huge number of jobs openings that require coding skills, the high rate of growth in programming jobs and the fact these jobs pay good incomes.
That is why TechConnect West Virginia is spearheading an integrated statewide skills development and training initiative focused on helping individuals (high school students and adults) get trained and employed in first-level computer coding/programming opportunities.
- Encourage high school students and adults to get trained for STEM occupations, with particular emphasis on computer coding as a career path and a workforce option
- Help align existing coding training options and educational programs
- Leverage federal training grants (ARC Power, etc.) that focus on coding
- Link with the state Development Office and business groups for outreach and marketing efforts
- Examine a partnership with other coding nonprofits to aid skilled individuals with job placement or apprenticeship opportunities
Among the first outcomes of this initiative will be to 1) develop industry-accepted parameters regarding the skills and aptitudes needed to qualify as a baseline coder and 2) promote the range of training options available for interested individuals. These may include classes provided by the state school system, the state’s community and technical colleges, the state’s universities or free, self-learning coding training courses.
Other training options include:
- West Virginia’s educational system is providing free, online computer coding courses that are now available to high school students via the state’s Microsoft Imagine Academy.
- Nonprofit training programs being offered around the state, including Mined Minds in Clendenin and Charleston, the WV HIVE in Beckley, RCBI in Huntington and Richwood Scientific in Richwood, among others.
Another outcome will be to assess and quantify the pool of trained coders in West Virginia, whether these individuals complete their training within the state school system, career tech centers, community colleges, universities, nonprofit training efforts or online courses.
Finally, TechConnect will be interacting with employers (private-sector and public-sector) to understand their tech workforce needs and encourage them to hire these newly trained West Virginians.
By aggregating and aligning all of our efforts, West Virginia will be better equipped to provide new opportunities for those who want to be part of the growing innovation and tech economy. We also will help produce more new workers with today’s high-tech skills and training.
— Anne Barth is the executive director of TechConnect West Virginia, a nonprofit coalition committed to the advancement of the innovation economy in West Virginia, focused on four technology sectors: advanced energy, chemicals and advanced materials, biosciences, and biometrics.