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Hogan promises $5m to fund computer science education

'We want to make sure that Marylanders have the tools and the skills they need to compete for 21st century jobs,' Gov. Larry Hogan said in making his announcement. (The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears)

‘We want to make sure that Marylanders have the tools and the skills they need to compete for 21st century jobs,’ Gov. Larry Hogan said in making his announcement. He is accompanied  by Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation Secretary Kelly Schulz.  (The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears)

ANNAPOLIS — Citing a growing need for workers trained in the computer sciences, Gov. Larry Hogan promised to provide $5 million to bolster education programs and increase women and minority participation.

“In this rapidly evolving job landscape, states that have access to a highly trained workforce will have a major advantage,” said Hogan. “Maryland simply must continue to lead the way, and closing this skills gap begins with a focus on education. We must spark the interest of students — particularly girls — beginning at an even younger age, and we must inspire high school and college students to pursue careers in computer science.”

Hogan cited statistics that show there are 500,000 computer science job openings around the county and about 115,000 computer science-related jobs in Maryland. The U.S. Department of Labor projects there 1.4 million computer specialist job openings nationwide by 2020 yet colleges and universities are expected to graduate enough qualified students to fill only about one-third of the positions.

There are as many as 20,000 high-paying computer science related jobs in the state — a number that is expected to grow 12 percent annually, according to Hogan.

Maryland colleges produced just 3,000 computer science graduates in 2015.

Additionally, Hogan said, women and minorities will make up just a small fraction of those qualified graduates.

“We want to make sure that Marylanders have the tools and the skills they need to compete for 21st century jobs,” Hogan said.

Thursday Hogan issued an executive order creating a study group to examine ways to grow Maryland’s computer science economy. A final report is due in June 2018.

The governor also said he would propose legislation establishing statewide computer science standards for kindergarten through 12th grade students.

Additionally, the governor promised to add $5 million to his coming budget. The money would be used for teacher training, professional development for computer science as well as grants to local school systems or individual schools for equipment.

Finally, Hogan announced a partnership with the Girls Who Code organization. The partnership would create a Governor’s Club Challenge computer coding competition — the first in the country. The clubs are free after-school programs for girls in grades 6 through 12.

Alec Ross, a Democratic candidate for governor in 2018, turned Hogan’s announcement into a campaign issue. In a statement, the technology policy expert and senior fellow at Johns Hopkins University and former aide to Hillary Clinton aide said Hogan was merely “copying and pasting from others,” including Ross’ own white paper that calls for increased computer coding classes in public schools.

“Larry Hogan’s computer science education proposal is long overdue. I’m glad to see my ideas are catching on, and this proves that Marylanders need a leader who knows how to innovate — not just copy and paste from others,” said Ross said in a statement. “For our children’s sake, I hope it doesn’t always take a campaign to move in the right direction on public education.”

The announcement drew praise from one Carroll County Republican who sponsored a bill earlier this year that would allow Maryland public school students to satisfy foreign language requirements by successfully completing computer programing language courses. The bill didn’t pass, but lawmakers referred it to a legislative study during the interim.

“Early exposure to computer science and computer programming will give kids a great opportunity to get excited about the subject and hopefully pursue further study and careers in the IT field,” said Del. April Rose, who recruits information technology employees for federal defense contracts. “The best part about learning these skills is that it can lead to great jobs without having to get an expensive four-year degree. I am excited to support this great initiative and am really happy that the students of Maryland will get the opportunity to get exposure to computer science and computer programming.”

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