A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

We Lead CS virtual career academy to expand access to college career pathways in computing

We Lead CS, a virtual career academy that will expand access to accelerated early college career pathways in computing for Kentucky high school students, will be the first of its kind in the nation and put Kentucky at the forefront of tech talent pipeline development.

Kentucky Senate President Pro Tem David Givens, other legislative leaders, and more than 80 employers and educators gathered recently at Northern Kentucky University to announce that We Lead CS will open for the 2024-2025 school year following a successful two-year pilot at iLEAD Academy in Carrollton.

Cracking the Code conference at Northern Kentucky University. (Photo provided)

“There’s a gap between students hungry for coding, programming, computer science, and curriculum that doesn’t really provide opportunities to teach it and the business community that needs the talent,” said Sen. Givens.

“We Lead CS will connect the dots by saying here’s the curriculum and here are the skilled educators to teach it. We’re going to feed these really hungry students this vitally important information and help them move forward in their careers.”

The U.S. Department of Education (USED) selected Kentucky’s iLEAD Academy’s idea to create a virtual computer science academy as one of the five most innovative ideas in the nation to expand students’ access to computer science education. In 2022, Sen. Givens and his colleagues in the Kentucky General Assembly passed legislation to scale the virtual academy statewide in an innovative effort to fill Kentucky’s talent gap in the tech sector.

On October 1, 2023, there were 3,300 active, open computer science jobs in Kentucky with an average salary of $63,700. Despite the overwhelming need for these workers, only 738 Kentucky high school students earned an industry certification in computer science in 2021. The gap widens in college. In 2021, graduates earned 358 computer science associate degrees and 587 computer science bachelor’s degrees. Of the combined 945 graduates, only 169 were women and just 64 were African American.

INTERalliance employers involved in designing We Lead CS include 5/3 Bank, Cincinnati Reds, GE Aviation, Great American Insurance, Procter & Gamble and INTERalliance of Greater Cincinnati.  In 2023, the USED tapped iLEAD and INTERalliance to lead again in its Career Z Challenge.

Along with the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, We Lead CS will engage Kentucky employers hiring tech talent to design an innovative, virtual-work-based learning program.

We Lead CS will offer dual college credit career pathways to their students in cybersecurity, data science, and programming. Students can graduate with 18-21 hours of college credit transferrable for completion of computer science associate and bachelor’s degrees. School districts will contract with We Lead CS to provide its virtual career academy program – for as few or as many as they have interested in preparing for tech careers. Employers and educators can get information on how become involved or register for a school district webinar by sending an email to weleadcs@outlook.com.

“iLEAD Academy is where it all started,” said Alicia Sells, Director of Innovation at the Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative and manager of iLEAD Academy. “The USED said we were one of five high schools in the nation with the most innovative ideas to expand students’ access to computer science education. We asked, ‘what if’ and now we’re going to totally transform the way we prepare kids for the tech workforce.”

Related Posts

Leave a Comment