HAZARD – Twenty-five Eastern Kentucky middle school students took what could be their first steps toward a career in computer science on July 13 in Hazard at the Rural Up! Coding Academy, co-sponsored by the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program (EKCEP), Inc., Challenger Learning Center of Kentucky and Kentucky River Area Development District.
Rural Up! provides computer-coding instruction to Appalachian students in middle and high school. The co-sponsorship of the Hazard camp allowed the students to attend free of charge.
While at the camp, students will learn the basics of coding, from manipulating Java script to dealing with more intricate and involved aspects of programming, including microprocessors, said Rural Up! Instructor Jeff Reed.
“What we’re trying to do is build a foundation of computer programming throughout a wide range of different languages, styles, and types, and stress the difference between web development and object-oriented programming,” said Reed. “We want them to have a solid foundation they can take home and build up.”
The students in Hazard began the Rural Up! curriculum on July 13 and by week’s end, will have the opportunity to showcase their own applications, including games or other types of software.
As the lead organization for the White House’s TechHire initiative in Eastern Kentucky, EKCEP is working to develop and support opportunities to bolster the region’s capacity to develop a more diverse workforce, especially in the sectors of Information Technology (IT) and computer science. The Rural Up! Coding Academy represents the chance to pique the interest of the younger generation of Eastern Kentuckians and teach them about the opportunity for a future in IT, noted EKCEP Executive Director Jeff Whitehead.
“Information Technology is a growing industry, and we know that in as little as five years, there will be an estimated 1.4 million open IT jobs in the United States. But we won’t be able to fill about 30 percent of those jobs because we’re projected not to have enough trained workers,” Whitehead said. “So it is vitally important that we find ways to equip our workforce to fill these open positions, especially here in our region as we work to develop a new digital economy.
“What the students attending this Rural Up! session are learning could go a long way in showing them that a career in IT in Eastern Kentucky is possible, and that’s a benefit not only to them but our entire region.”
EKCEP is also providing co-sponsorship of another Rural Up! Coding Academy set for July 20-24 in Grayson.
To find out more about Rural Up!, including dates for additional coding academies in Eastern Kentucky, log on to ruralup.org. To learn more about EKCEP, visit ekcep.org.