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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Julie Lassa: Computer education builds a stronger workforce


By Julie Lassa
December 9 - 15 was Computer Science Education Week, and two events that occurred here in the 24th State Senate District last week demonstrate our leadership in teaching and learning about digital technology.

Tomah High School celebrated the week by participating in an Hour of Code, an event promoted nationally by Code.org to help students learn about the computer languages that let our smart phones, tablets, towers and laptops do all the amazing things they do. Because Tomah High organized its Hour of Code activities to involve the entire student body, it received an award of $10,000 in laptop computers from Code.org – the only high school in Wisconsin to receive the award. The students, faculty and staff at Tomah High certainly deserve this recognition and the Hour of Code award for their dedication to excellence in technology education.

Computer Science Education Week was also the backdrop for an exciting announcement by the North Central Wisconsin Workforce Development Board (NCWWDB) that it will be partnering with Job Centers in its region to help job seekers assess and improve their basic computer skills and find careers in information technology.

The services start with an online, self-guided computer skills assessment to pinpoint strengths and improvement areas in basic computer skills and the use of common programs such as Internet browsers, email, word processing, Windows and the Mac operating system. Based on the results of the assessment, job-seekers can take a series of courses designed to help them master basic computer literacy as well as to conduct an effective job search online.

In response to the growing demand throughout Wisconsin for workers with information technology skills, the program has expanded from simply helping job seekers assess and develop their computer skills to career counseling as well. Those who wish to pursue an IT career can be channeled into a variety of related courses offered by our technical colleges and universities.

The NCWWDB serves Adams, Forest, Langlade, Lincoln, Marathon, Oneida, Portage, Vilas and Wood Counties. Anyone interested in pursuing these new computer education services can contact the Wisconsin Rapids Job Center at 715-422-5000 or the Marathon County Job Center at 715-261-8700.

As digital technology finds its way into every aspect of our lives, the demand for computer programmers, engineers and other information technology specialists will continue to grow. Wisconsin’s major industries – manufacturing, agriculture, food production, wood and paper products, and more – all rely on computer technology and people who have mastered them.

Having strong computer science education programs like those celebrated during Computer Science Education Week does more than simply help those who learn about the digital devices that have become so essential to our lives. It also helps Wisconsin prepare to have a competitive workforce and a stronger economy.

I’m glad to see that educational institutions like Tomah High School and the workforce programs provided by NCWWDB in my district are playing a leadership role in providing computer science education to students and local residents. It is one more element of the exciting technological innovation going on in schools, businesses and research institutions throughout the 24th Senate District and across Wisconsin.

-- Lassa, D-Stevens Point, represents Wisconsin's 24th Senate District.

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