Partnership leads to coding academy here

Published 5:47 pm Saturday, September 8, 2018

A partnership between the Vicksburg Warren Economic Development Partnership, Hinds Community College and the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center will soon provide information technology career opportunities in Vicksburg.

As part of the Mississippi Coding Academies, Vicksburg will have its own coding academy as a public/private initiative formed under the sponsorship of Innovate Mississippi and the Mississippi Development Authority.

The coding academies were created to reduce the shortage of available software coding professionals in the state.

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“The opening of Vicksburg’s Coding Academy is something that is included in our community’s strategic plan and that fits perfectly within the vision of the future of Vicksburg and Warren County,” Pablo Diaz, president and CEO of the Vicksburg Warren Economic Development Partnership, said. “Coding is a valuable skill that is in high demand in our region and we foresee that demand to continue to grow. I urge anyone vaguely interested in learning more about coding or looking for a career change to explore this academy and call for more information.”

The academies offer post-secondary students an intensive 11-month computer science program. Pilot programs began in Jackson and Columbus in 2017.

“The Mississippi Coding Academies will help develop a well-trained workforce, which not only meet but exceed, the expectations of today’s high-tech companies,” Gov. Phil Bryant stated in an MDA press release.

Looking for applicants

In its partnership, HCC and ERDC are now in the process of looking for coding academy applicants.

According to Marvin Moak, vice president of the HCC Vicksburg-Warren campus, classes will meet 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at ERDC’s facility on Halls Ferry Road.

Diaz said HCC and ERDC are key partners of the economic development team and worked closely together when the initiative was initially discussed to make it happen.

“This is the first for-credit course we’ve done at Vicksburg, and it’s a great chance for the community to move toward the kinds of skills needed to compete in the workforce of the future,” Moak said.

Students in the program will learn the most current computer coding skills in a mix of classroom and practical training.

Students will also focus on the practical application of technology in a hands-on work environment and learn the software skills necessary for employment. Upon completion of the course, students will receive a certificate from HCC.

ERDC officials are looking forward to the private/public partnership and the benefits it could provide educationally and economically.

“I was born in Vicksburg, went off to school and came back to work in my hometown for ERDC,” Robert Walker, ERDC Deputy Chief Information Officer, said. “Working with our partners over the past several months to make this academy a reality will give other native Vicksburg students a chance to stay and work locally.”

“The Vicksburg Coding Academy is a unique educational opportunity that will provide a hands-on immersive workplace environment that will provide a wide variety of coding instruction that will result in skills we need at ERDC and other employers in the region,” said Jerry Ballard, ERDC’s Information Technology Laboratory Computational Science and Engineering Division Chief.

The program represents another opportunity to grow the local economy through cutting-edge workforce training.

“The future of technology developments in our community is tied to a highly capable coding workforce,” said Dr. Jeff Holland, chairman of the Warren County Economic Development Foundation and board member of the Vicksburg Warren Economic Development Partnership, who worked with all parties involved to help the program into fruition. “The Vicksburg Coding Academy is a critical step toward achieving that workforce. It sets our community up for success.”

Moak agrees with Holland and said he’s proud Vicksburg is implementing a coding academy. In a first for statewide academies, Vicksburg Coding Academy participants will receive college credit through HCC.

“With the industries we have coming here like United Brands and ERDC, they’re needing these particular skill sets,” Moak said. “This program will equip this community with the skills to attract and retain individuals with high-tech abilities. It will help move Vicksburg into a technology leadership position in Mississippi.”

Moak said the cost for the course is normal college tuition, but scholarships and financial aid are available.

For more information on the program or to apply, contact Moak’s office at 601-629-6804 or stop by the HCC Vicksburg-Warren campus, 755 Highway 27.