By CJ MITCHELL
Capital News Service
ANNAPOLIS, Maryland — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Thursday announced an initiative promoting computer science and technology education, emphasizing gender and minority equity in the STEM field.
“The Maryland economy is really booming, and anything from farming to cybersecurity needs people who are technologists, and the gender gap is only getting wider. … We need to get girls into the classroom and into the field,” Emily Schienvar, a communications associate with Girls Who Code, told the University of Maryland’s Capital News Service.
Hogan’s “ACCESS” initiative — or Achieving Computer science Collaborations for Employing Students Statewide — is an education and workforce development plan that includes $5 million in additional funding as well as new legislation to establish computer-science standards for K-12 education statewide.
There are about 20,000 openings for computer science jobs in Maryland — home to the National Security Agency — but the state produced fewer than 3,000 computer science graduates in 2015, Hogan said.
“The more money to fund training teachers the better, because it will create a better product to prepare the kids for the world. That’s why we come to work everyday,” said Joe Rose, principal at Center of Applied Technology-South, a public magnet vocational trade school in Anne Arundel County, Maryland.
Rose also said his school is “breaking down roadblocks and barriers” in the technology field, with “quite a few young women” enrolled in their computer science programs.
“Based on current trends, women will hold only one in five of these ‘jobs of the future’ in America by the year 2025,” said Hogan, emphasizing the lack of women employed in computer science jobs.
The governor also announced a partnership between the state of Maryland and Girls Who Code, creating a Governor’s Club Challenge where the 23 Girls Who Code clubs in the state will compete to present their computer science projects to Hogan.
This first-of-its-kind challenge will also create partnerships among education and community stakeholders in the state to launch new Girls Who Code clubs and promote gender equality in the field, according to Hogan.
Hogan said the “ACCESS” initiative grew from his membership in a group of nine governors aiming to expand access to K-12 computer science. He joined the group, part of the National Governors Association, in July.
“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 said at the news conference.
Also on Thursday, Hogan signed an executive order directing the state’s Task Force on Cybersecurity and Information Technology, part of the Governor’s Workforce Development Board, to research pathways to grow the Maryland technology sector, as well as propose innovative ways to promote gender and minority equity in the STEM field. A report is due to the governor’s desk by June 2018.