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In October 1879, Thomas Edison successfully tested a light bulb that burned for a ground-breaking thirteen and a half hours, a moment that changed the world. But the impact of his short-lived accomplishment lasted more than thirteen and a half hours. It required hard work and perseverance, two things that Edison knew well. This is why he is known for saying, “good fortune often happens when opportunity meets with preparation.”
140 years later, our nation faces a shortage of skilled computer science professionals, despite vast opportunity for great paying STEM careers. With 1,700 currently unfilled computing jobs in Arkansas and only 272 recent computer science graduates, it is my commitment to do everything possible to help “opportunity meet with preparation.” As Governor, my goal is to ensure that Arkansas students are fully equipped to meet the possibilities that await them in the workforce.
That is why I visited Little Rock’s Hall High School this week to announce the kick-off of the Governor’s All-Region and All-State Coding Competition. This competition, supported by a $40,000 grant from Verizon, is open to teams made up of three students each, grades 8-12. The teams will compete regionally and the top two winners of those competitions will receive an invitation to participate in the All-State Coding Competition. Members of the top three teams will each receive a scholarship award of up to $2,000, and the school that produces the All-State champs will also receive an award of up to $20,000.
The Governor’s All-Region and All-State Coding Competition will not only test students’ computer coding skills, but will continue to develop their ability, creativity and ingenuity. Why is this important? Because fostering these qualities in our students will equip them for possibilities they may not even realize are available to them.
Last week, I traveled to Greenwood, Arkansas on my 2016 Coding Tour and met with students in computer coding classes, robotics classes and some students who had no interest in computer science at all. But after sharing that one million of the best jobs in the nation could go unfilled because of a shortage of computer science professionals, I received an email from a Greenwood senior named Alexandra who said, “[Getting a degree in computer science] has always been in the back of my mind but you definitely persuaded me today.”
These are exactly the kind of stories that I love to hear. I believe that many of the world’s up-and-coming innovators are right here in Arkansas. And it is my goal to prepare them with the education they need to meet the opportunity ahead.
I am looking forward to all that the students will learn in the upcoming Governor’s All-Region and All-State Computer Coding Competitions. The competition will demand hard work and dedication from the competing teams. But I know that there are no students who are more up for the challenge than those right here in Arkansas.