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Kentucky bill bolsters Kentucky’s tech pipeline

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Legislation to create a gateway to college for high school students passed the House floor. Sponsored by Representative Ed Massey, HB 680 establishes a virtual computer science career academy in Kentucky that would allow students to earn college credits toward a computer science degree before graduating from high school.

The virtual academy will introduce middle and high school students to computer science fundamentals, which typically are not readily accessible in their community. Students can earn up to 12 college credit hours through the academy toward a college program at any state school. Massey says the goal of the program is to educate and prepare high school students for the booming technology workforce needs.

“This unique program provides vast possibilities for underrepresented students to access one of the nation’s fastest-growing career fields,” said Massey, who represents parts of Boone County. “As we continue to identify and tackle the state’s pressing needs, we’re focused on building a talent pipeline centered on skills that are transferable across our highly skilled workforce needs.”

Computer science, particularly data science, is one of the fastest-growing and highest-demand job sectors nationwide. According to a recent study by Kentucky’s Council on Postsecondary Education, 67 percent of the Commonwealth’s new STEM jobs will be in computer science, and there are nearly 3,000 open positions.

The measure expands upon the iLEAD Academy, a program for high schools in five rural school districts to earn dual credits toward high school graduation and a college degree in computer science. HB 680 takes that concept statewide with the WeLead CS Academy, making the program widely available to all students in the commonwealth at no cost.

“Data Science is the highest-demand job in America with an average annual salary of $117,000. WeLead CS will offer students the nation’s first Data Science career pathway and opportunity to earn 12-21 hours of college credit to get a jumpstart on computer science degrees,” said Alicia Sells, Director of Innovation and Communication at the Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative, who runs the academy.

Massey’s bill now heads to the Senate for consideration. For more information on HB 680, visit the Legislative Research Commission website.

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