Decatur will add courses for students to study computer science, technology, math and engineering. The goal will be to graduate more students who are ready to work in the growing high-tech market in the region.
(TNS) — Decatur City Schools is expanding classes related to computer science, an area where the U.S. Department of Labor says job growth is faster than the average for all occupations.
Austin High has been selected as an Amazon Future Engineer school, and this distinction will give students free access to Edhesive, which is an online computer science and science, technology, math and engineering curriculum.
Also, beginning with the 2019-20 academic year, the district is adding an introduction to computer science, which will be available to ninth graders and help bridge the gap between middle school and 10th grade, Austin computer science teacher Brenda Richardson said.
“This is a perfect fit for continuity” she said, adding that Decatur City Schools already has computer science programs available for K-8 students and those in grades 10-12.
The Labor Department’s occupational outlook report is forecasting computer and information technology job growth to be about 13 percent between 2016 and 2026.
“Demand for these workers will stem from greater emphasis on cloud computing, the collection and storage of big data, and information security,” Labor Department officials wrote in the report.
The median annual wage for computer and information technology occupations was $86,320 in May 2018, which was higher than the median annual wage for all occupations of $38,640, the report said.
Javier Cienfuegos, a 2014 Austin graduate who earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Berea College, said he selected his college major because of the forecast about available jobs in the Decatur area.
“When I started researching the job market in 2013, I realized the market for information technology related jobs was growing faster than anything in this area,” he said.
Cienfuegos, who is pursuing his master’s degree from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, works as a software developer for Mentor Graphics in Huntsville.
Decatur City Superintendent Michael Douglas said his decision to add a computer science curriculum two years ago was not difficult.
“This is where the jobs are, and the need for computer science workers will continue to increase in this area, especially with the Toyota Mazda plant coming,” he said.
The Japanese automakers are constructing a $1.6 billion manufacturing facility in the Huntsville annexed part of Limestone County that is expected to generate as many as 4,000 jobs and will have the capacity to produce 300,000 vehicles a year.
“This is going to be a technologically advanced plant, and someone will program and operate the robots,” Douglas said.
A bill that would require school districts to make computer science available to students by 2020 has passed in the state House of Representatives and is facing no opposition in the Senate.
Gov. Kay Ivey has also expressed support for the legislation that would provide professional development for K-12 computer science teachers; provide a computer science specialist for the State Department of Education; and provide pathways for teachers who already have teaching degrees to receive computer science certification.
Douglas and Superintendents Dee Dee Jones of Hartselle City and Bill Hopkins Jr. of Morgan County support the legislation.
“We already have a complete curriculum, including AP computer science, and all of our elementary students do coding,” Jones said.
Morgan County has some of the same classes and every school is now part of A+ College Ready, which gives students access to advanced computer science classes.
Richardson said the partnership with Amazon will be a big help for students because the relationship will give students online access to people working in the computer science field, and some of the industry leaders will visit the school system.
Although he’s not part of Amazon, Cienfuegos has visited Austin to share his experience, including talking to school leaders about the computer science curriculum, which was not available to him when he as a student.
“I had advanced math classes, but I had to go online and learn about computer science,” he said. “There are plenty of jobs available in this field.”
©2019 The Decatur Daily (Decatur, Ala.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.