Author: Ashley Scheideman

Kansas Board of Education Approves Computer Science Education Allowance

FlagshipKansas.Tech Emphasizes Importance of Access to Computer Science Education for All Kansas Students

In a world driven by technology, every industry and profession in the US is being fundamentally changed by skills learned through Computer Science education. Kansas was one of two states who did not allow Computer Science to count toward a core high school graduation requirement. Today, that has changed.

In February 2020, the Kansas State Board of Education approved the Computer Science Education Implementation recommendations, one of which was the item “Make Computer Science count as a core graduation credit”. Through the process of working with mathematics and science education professionals, a change to the graduation requirements was presented to and approved by the Board of Education today.

“This is a huge first step for all Kansas students in gaining access to Computer Science education,” Ashley Scheideman, Executive Director of FlagshipKansas.Tech said. “It is necessary that Kansas students have access to Computer Science education through which they will learn skills vital to a qualified workforce such as computational thinking, creativity, problem solving, analysis and logic.”

The constant evolution of occupations and the ability to compete for jobs in all industries is imperative for the success of our state. Specifically, the tech sector contributes $10.2billion to the state’s economy each year. Today, 58% of all new jobs in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) are in computing, and citizens with these skills enjoy a wide range of career options as all industry sectors have a technological need. There are currently about 3,000 open computing jobs, but Kansas universities only graduate around 516 computer science degrees each year, creating a gap in the workforce.

“Making Computer Science more accessible to high school students on their path to graduation will help expose them to these opportunities and help Kansas take another step forward in closing that workforce gap,” said Joy Eakins, President of Cornerstone Data and Chair of the FlagshipKansas.Tech Education Committee.

With the new recommendations, a local Board of Education may substitute one unit of Computer Science for one unit of science or one unit of mathematics providing the concepts requirements are satisfied. Computer Science will be defined as “the study of computers and algorithmic processes, including their principles, their hardware and software designs, their implementation, and their impact on society.”

Allowing Computer Science to count as a core graduation requirement has been a years-long endeavor, supported by many Kansas organizations including Ignister, Science City at Union Station, KC Tech Council, KC STEM Alliance, and others dedicated to gaining access for Kansas students to a computer science education.

FlagshipKansas.Tech Collaborating with Kansas Economic Development Plan Focusing on Kids and Tech

Ignister is a new program that pushes for computer science classes to count as a core curriculum toward high school graduation, aiming for related skills to grow into new tech jobs that will foster a younger workforce.

May 03, 2021 • Megan Stringer, The Wichita Eagle

GovTech.com Newsletter

Kansas

(TNS) — Two years ago, Nick Poels decided he wanted K-12 students in his rural Kansas community of 2,500 to learn to code. Kids in Phillipsburg soon had a brand-new computer lab, and Poels hoped 20 or 30 children might use it.

“Within two weeks of school starting, we had 351 students involved,” he said.

Poels quickly realized he had touched on something.

At the time he was the economic development director for Phillips County, in north-central Kansas. Now he’s working with nonprofit NetWork Kansas on a new project to bring computer science education to K-12 schools across the state, with support from the Kansas Department of Commerce.

The first focus of his new project, dubbed Ignister, is to push for computer science classes to count as a core curriculum toward high school graduation in Kansas. He believes those skills among Kansas residents, from rural Phillipsburg to Wichita’s urban core, will eventually transfer into new tech jobs that will give a younger Kansas workforce a reason to remain in the state or return later in life.

“Every single rural community in Kansas, whether they like to admit it or not, is plagued with an outward migration of youth,” Poels said. “They get through high school, a large percentage of them go off to learn a skill and they don’t come back.”

Kansas has seen high levels of residents leaving the state in the last five years, ranking 44th in the country for new migration, according to the state’s Framework for Growth. The economic development strategic plan, released in February, showed how population loss can threaten the overall economy. The working-age population in Kansas is expected to decline 2.3% by 2028.

Concerns about automation in manufacturing and aviation — which have long dominated the local economy in Wichita and Kansas — have led Kansas workers to consider retraining and community leaders to push for economic diversification.

But if computer science education can expand remote tech jobs at home, then younger, more educated workers might not have to move away for work. The goal is to make young Kansans eligible for the growing share of remote jobs around the country.

Education is only one piece of the puzzle, though. While Poels is starting his focus there, he and other Kansas tech supporters agree that retraining existing workers for skills in tech-forward jobs will help them transition and remain employed in the state.

“How do we take the model that we’ve created in Phillipsburg, develop upon it and then bring that to any community in Kansas?” Poels said.

K-12 Education

Kansas is one of just two states, along with Connecticut, that doesn’t recognize computer science classes as a core curriculum toward high school graduation, according to code.org, a nonprofit that advocates for expanded access to computer science.

Flagship Kansas.tech wants to change that by the end of the 2021-22 school year, said executive director Ashley Scheideman. The Wichita-based nonprofit, which launched in January 2019, is trying to promote Kansas as a viable tech hub.

Tech companies are already in Kansas, although the state isn’t top of mind when outsiders think of tech-centric communities, said Scheideman, a member of the advisory board for Ignister. Flagship Kansas.tech is focused on awareness, workforce and education.

Computer science education isn’t just about programming, said Scheideman. The classes teach critical thinking and problem solving — skills that transfer outside of the tech world.

“We want to really make sure we have that educational system in place that creates that pipeline for a robust workforce,” she said. “Kansans are hard workers. They are value-driven people. And if we provide them with the technological training and education they need, they’ll be desirable by companies outside of Kansas.”

Expanding computer science classes to all schools in the state isn’t quick or simple though. Professional development for teachers is a big barrier and a main focus for Ignister.

Stephen King agrees. He’s the education program consultant for computer science at the Kansas State Department of Education. Getting teachers certified and comfortable in teaching computer science has to be a main goal, he said. Extra training for such a large group of workers can take time and cost the state money.

“Not any one solution is going to fix this,” he said. “We have to approach it from several directions.”

One option is to add an endorsement for educators to teach computer science, or a subject added onto their license that shows what they’re qualified to teach.

Another route is to add onto the curriculum colleges teach educators when they’re still in school themselves. That could help future teachers feel more at ease in the classroom with computer science.

“I wish I could snap my fingers and make it happen tomorrow,” King said. “But progress has been made and things are falling into place.”

Poels sent out a survey late last year to ask K-12 computer science teachers what infrastructure exists and what should be developed to expand tech classes. Some educators teach remotely, he learned, and could work with districts across the state to implement virtual computer science courses.

The Kansas education department should encourage all schools to offer computer science, a task force told the state Board of Education in February 2020. Members also said the courses should satisfy a core graduation requirement.

King, whose position was created based on those recommendations, will offer further guidance for the state at a May 11 meeting.

Manufacturing and other industries expect workers to have technical skills, King said. For young Kansans who grow up to work in agriculture, aviation or other fields, computer science and technology will still affect their jobs.

“It’s no longer the geeky, nerdy thing to do,” Poels said of computer science and programming. “It’s an essential part of a career path.”

Retraining an existing workforce

Workers laid off from a job after 20 or 30 years often lack the technical skills required for a job search process or a new career, said Amanda Duncan, vice president and chief business development officer for the Workforce Alliance in Wichita.

Scheideman pointed to the workers who paint airplanes in aviation manufacturing. Someday soon, it’s possible a robot can do that job.

“But you’re going to need a person to program it, to troubleshoot it,” Scheideman said. “Those are technological jobs. If we can build that workforce, as other industries are adopting more technology and transforming, then we’ll help with that pipeline and help keep jobs here.”

Duncan agrees. She doesn’t think robots will affect the overall number of jobs.

“To move to automation in manufacturing, it’s actually not replacing any job,” she said. “Because you need a mechanic to fix the robot. It’s just changing the jobs.”

There will come a day when Spirit AeroSystems, Wichita’s largest employer, doesn’t need to hire 50 new workers to manufacture a plane with their hands — but does need to hire 50 software developers, Duncan said.

Earlier this year, the Workforce Alliance received its largest grant yet, nearly $10 million in federal funding, that will help retrain and educate workers at the intersection of advanced manufacturing and technology.

Tech employment isn’t limited to designing new apps or working for Google in Silicon Valley, Duncan and others said. It’s about employment here and now, in Wichita and across Kansas.

Curt Gridley and Tracy Hoover are working to grow the present tech community in Wichita. They cofounded Groover Labs in Old Town, what they call a collaborative tech hub with room for coworking, events, classes and a hands-on maker space.

The married couple previously worked in Boston’s tech industry but moved to Wichita when they wanted to be closer to family. They could have relocated back to the East Coast to start Groover Labs, but thought they would have a bigger impact in Wichita.

Gridley thinks there’s a huge opportunity for laid-off aviation workers. Wichita already has a growing cybersecurity sector and an entrepreneurial spirit, so there’s a chance to energize the community around new tech start-ups, he said.

That economic diversification would help Wichita’s existing industry in the future, Gridley and Hoover argued.

“Young people live in a tech-centric world,” Gridley said. “If that’s not taking hold here, then Wichita could feel out of step with the rest of the country.”

An outside example

Poels sees Arkansas as a model for his K-12 plan. Gov. Asa Hutchinson launched the Arkansas Computer Science Initiative in 2015.

In five years, the state has increased the number of credentialed computer science teachers from 6 to 492 and boosted high school computer science course offerings and student enrollment in those classes. Arkansas allowed for high school computer science teachers to apply for up to $10,000 in stipends over five years.

It’s too soon to tell if the state will see more young employees remain in Arkansas because of the initiative.

For now, officials there are focusing on increasing computer science enrollment at colleges and tech schools, as well as career development and internship opportunities.

Kansas doesn’t necessarily have to start from scratch because other states have already figured out how to fund these initiatives, sometimes through public and private sector partnerships, said Joy Eakins, president of Cornerstone Data in Wichita.

Scheideman and King agree. Both Kansas and Arkansas have many rural communities and a similar overall population.

“Arkansas was one of the first out of the gate with doing this,” King said. “I have plans to catch up.”

King is working on a five-year plan to expand computer science education in Kansas.

“My dream is to someday soon have every single kid in the state of Kansas have a computer science course available to them,” he said.

‘A big job ahead’

More people moved away from Kansas last year than moved into the state, according to a 2020 study from United Van Lines. The primary reason for moving — in or out of the state — was related to a job. Kansas made the list for the top 10 outbound states in the country last year.

The tech education and training sought by Ignister and collaborators like Flagship Kansas.tech aim to change that. Computer science and coding jobs can be done from anywhere in the country with a stable broadband connection.

Ignister is still in its early stages, though, and Poels knows he has to bite off the project in small chunks. It won’t work if teachers don’t have access to professional development and if the larger community isn’t aware of new resources available to them.

For now, he is bringing everyone together at one table to have conversations about what will work and what won’t. That communication is key to the whole project, he said.

“This is such a collaborative initiative,” Poels said. “There are so many different intricacies that have to work together for this to be successful.

“We’ve got a big job ahead of us, but I honestly believe we’re heading down the right track.”

(c)2021 The Wichita Eagle (Wichita, Kan.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

FlagshipKansas.Tech on ICTPodcast – Kansas is a viable tech hub!

Executive Director, Ashley Scheideman, is joined on the ictpodcast by Advisory Board members Dan Reisig and Molly Breitenbach to discuss the current state of technology companies in Kansas, and the opportunities being created for a vibrant tech sector throughout the state.

Listen to the podcast at www.ictpodcast.us!

CYBERSECURITY COMPANY NOVACOAST TO OPEN NEW SECURITY OPERATIONS CENTER IN WICHITA

Originally published by the Greater Wichita Partnership

Wichita, Kan. – Novacoast, a cybersecurity and identity and access management company that provides end-to-end technical solutions to a global customer base, including managed security services, advisory and software development, announced today it is opening a new Security Operations Center in Wichita. In addition to the 24-7 Security Operations Center, the Wichita office will include sales, software development and cybersecurity engineering. The company plans to initially hire 60 employees with plans for continued growth.

According to Novacoast CEO Paul Anderson, the company was planning an expansion in another area of the country and had not considered the Wichita region. It wasn’t until the Greater Wichita Partnership proactively asked about the company’s business needs and shared information about the region’s information technology and cybersecurity assets that Anderson saw what a perfect fit Wichita and the surrounding area is.

Anderson said, “We were intrigued with the Partnership’s message and then with the entire community because of the overwhelming support from industry, education and elected leaders. I’ve been running companies for over 25 years and haven’t come across such a welcoming and exceptional place to do business as I’ve found in Wichita.”

Novacoast will establish its principal office in the Epic Center in downtown Wichita. “On our site visits, we experienced first-hand the investment in downtown and were extremely impressed,” said Anderson.

Founded in 1996, the privately held company, headquartered in Santa Barbara, Calif., has more than 350 employees. The company currently runs Security Operation Centers in California, Michigan, Manchester, United Kingdom and Guatemala City, Guatemala.

“This is a great company with a global reach and an impactful business attraction win for the Wichita region and Kansas,” said Jeff Fluhr, President of the Greater Wichita Partnership. “Our community’s collaborative approach to promote our assets and share insight into our information technology and cybersecurity ecosystem was key to securing this new global business and new jobs for our community.”

Novacoast cited the following cybersecurity and IT assets in its location decision:  the 184th Intelligence Wing for the Air National Guard at McConnell Air Force Base; Wichita State University and the National Institute for Aviation Research and National Institute for Digital Transformation; education partners, including nationally-certified cybersecurity programs at WSU and Butler Community College, IT training at WSU Tech, and Friends University Cyber Security Lab; and leaders from among the 110 local tech companies and FlagshipKansas.Tech.

According to Fluhr, leaders from more than 20 local and state organizations worked together through multiple interactions and three site visits with the company to demonstrate the region’s cybersecurity assets, information and support for business, including Governor Laura Kelly, Lt. Governor David Toland and the Kansas Department of Commerce, United States Senator Jerry Moran, Sedgwick County Chairman Pete Meitzner, Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple as well as other community leaders and partners.

“Novacoast is, without question, a perfect fit for Wichita,” Governor Laura Kelly said. “Our interconnected, digital world makes cybersecurity even more critical now and into the future for Kansans and our industries alike. To have a well-established cybersecurity leader decide to put down roots here in Wichita and Kansas is spectacular. Congratulations to Wichita and to Novacoast on this exciting new partnership.”

Cybersecurity and IT systems and support are identified as target industries for growth in the Regional Growth Plan, a strategy to grow Greater Wichita’s economy, attract new businesses and expand existing industries. In addition, it is also in the State of Kansas’ Framework for Growth, created through the Kansas Department of Commerce.

“Congratulations to Novacoast, and thank you for expanding your cutting-edge security solutions here in Wichita, and in Kansas,” Lieutenant Governor and Commerce Secretary David Toland said. “Cybersecurity is the first initiative of the Framework for Growth’s Kansas Competitiveness Project, designed to bring new skills and technologies to drive our economic performance. We’re excited for your future here, and the important work you will do every day to help protect people and places in Kansas and well beyond.”

The majority of Novacoast’s customers are highly regulated global firms such as global banks, healthcare and energy companies. Its subsidiary Novacoast Federal provides services to agencies such as NASA, US Patent & Trademark, IRS and the Federal Reserve System among others.

“As a national leader in cybersecurity development and implementation, I am pleased that Novacoast has chosen Kansas as the location for its new Security Operations Center,” said Senator Jerry Moran. “The Wichita region has already proven itself as a leader in cyber technology at institutions like Wichita State University, Friends University and the 177th Information Aggressor Squadron at McConnell Air Force Base, and Novacoast will certainly benefit from the impressive cyber talent pipeline located in the region. Novacoast’s move will bring more cybersecurity jobs to Kansas, and, more importantly, will foster powerful research partnerships to help our nation address its most critical cybersecurity challenges.”

According to Anderson, Novacoast plans to begin hiring immediately, primarily for security analysts and with jobs for software development positions already posted on KansasWorks.com. 

“Wichita is thrilled to welcome Novacoast to our city,” said Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple. “This will not only provide well-paying high-tech jobs to Wichitans, but Novacoast’s selection of Wichita is evidence of our focused efforts to diversify our regional economy.”

Sedgwick County Chairman Pete Meitzner said, “I have had the privilege of meeting this very exciting company and the Novacoast leadership. I am excited they have chosen our city and area to further their world market in the growing field of cybersecurity.”

The Wichita region was named No. 1 in digital service job growth in 2018 by Brookings Institution and recognized as the No. 3 engineering hub by Engineering Daily.

###

About the Greater Wichita Partnership

The Greater Wichita Partnership is focused on one primary objective: to fast-forward regional economic growth in Wichita and South Central Kansas. The organization works within three key priorities – jobs, talent and quality of place – to accelerate this objective.

National designation means fresh credibility, new opportunities for Butler Community College’s cybersecurity program

Butler Community College has been designated a National Center of Academic Excellence in cybersecurity defense by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.

“This affirms that we set the bar higher for our programs,” said Brett Eisenman, associate professor of computer information technology at Butler, where students can earn a certificate or associate degree in cybersecurity.

Butler helps train students to deal with growing cybersecurity threats and prepares them for jobs such as security analysts and network administrators.

“Your ability to meet the increasing demands of the program criteria will serve the nation well,” Karen Leuschner, the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education at the NSA, said in a letter to Butler announcing the designation.

Butler joins Johnson County Community College as the only two-year school in Kansas with the designation, which is good through 2024. Wichita State, Kansas, Kansas State and Fort Hays State all have the designation as well.

“We’re so foundational,” said Eisenman, who is the department chair for cyber security and networking administration. “We’re like the groundwork for what students need to have to go on to WSU or Friends or any other four-year school.

“I think that’s what makes us fit so well into the whole (cyber security) hub. We can provide them with their basic certifications.”

About 60 students are enrolled in the program.

A foundation “we can trust”

Butler holds an articulation agreement with Friends which grants students their first two years toward the cyber security degree at Friends. Friends accepts up to 78 credit hours toward a bachelor’s degree from Butler cybersecurity graduates and also has a cyber security master’s program.

Butler’s designation “tells us they’ve got a pretty solid foundation that we can trust,” said Lt. Col. Andrew VanderZeil, squadron commander in the Cybersecurity Group of the 184th Wing of the Kansas Air National Guard at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita. “They’re doing it right.”

Regardless of the industry, “it’s always challenging to know if the talent that’s coming in front of you is genuine or if they’re a paper tiger,” VanderZeil said.

Butler “always has a good track record of creating students who care, with a passion and real knowledge.”

Butler has also partnered with Wichita State University (WSU) and Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology (OSUIT) to offer students a four-year coordinated program through the applied computing curriculum where students will receive a Cyber Security Associate in Applied Science degree at Butler Community College in the first two years and a Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Computing from WSU or a Bachelor of Technology in Information Technologies at OSUIT after two additional years.

More resources, job opportunities

The designation isn’t just a nice plaque to hang on the wall, Eisenman said. It will result in much more recognition within the industry.

“We’re already seeing more portals of job opportunities and resources available for us as instructors,” he said.

That includes using a variety of scenarios and simulations they can use in their courses, including remote pin testing, remote capture the flag games and exercises “that will hopefully be more appealing to kids these days,” Eisenman said.

Cybersecurity doesn’t have the flash that developing video games does, he said.

“It’s hard in this visually stimulated age to get students interested in finding clues and finding breaches, finding where things went wrong,” Eisenman said. “You’re looking for clues.”

Butler’s program has what could almost be described as a stem cell approach to teaching cyber security, in that students are given a strong foundation of the fundamentals and then build from there.

That’s appealing to VanderZeil and employers in general.

“It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in…those basic foundational skills, they’re always the hardest to build,” VanderZeil said.

If someone from Butler joins the National Guard and comes to work at the 184th, “we’re not having to tear things apart and rebuild what they know,” he said. “We can draft them toward their passion, figure out what they want to do and help them do it, instead of teaching them the basics of hammering and sawing.”

Skill sets constantly changing

One of the components that makes Butler’s program so effective is the constant updating of the curriculum to take into account the ever-changing threats, officials said.

“Every day we’re hearing there’s a new data breach or new security issue of one kind or another, and we’re training the next generation of workforce employees to be able to combat these bad actors that are out in the world,” said Kevin Lann-Teubner, associate professor of computer information technology.

Keeping up with the ever-changing threats means constantly updating the curriculum, Eisenman said.

“Anything in the IT industry is rapidly moving,” he said. “The skill set’s constantly changing. Kevin and I lament all the time that we should have been math teachers, because two plus two is still four.

“They write their classes one time and use it for twenty years and enjoy their summers. We spend our summers and Christmas vacation rewriting classes and learning new technology.”

Developing ‘soft skills’

While staying on top of the latest threats is an important piece of the cybersecurity program, Lann-Teubner said helping students to develop good “soft skills” – such as working in teams and being able to explain themselves well – is significant as well.

One of the three main cybersecurity labs at Butler is set up for students to work in teams and sharpen those skills, he said.

“We have a texting culture and people are real comfortable doing that,” Lann-Teubner said. “Get them in a group with each other and it’s a different story.”

But they need to become comfortable talking with others to succeed in their careers, he said.

“You’ve got to be able to talk to your peers, but you’ve also got to be able to talk to that C-class,” Lann-Teubner said, referring to executives. “They don’t know how to talk tech.”

The national designation covers more than the cybersecurity classes students take at Butler.

It covers the “institution as a whole,” Lann-Teubner said. “I had to prove that our information technology department also takes cybersecurity seriously.”

He and Eisenman also had to show that other departments teach students about cybersecurity threats.

This isn’t the first time Butler’s cybersecurity program has been certified by the National Security Agency. But this new certification means Butler meets updated standards that have been developed by the NSA, Eisenman said.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Author Credits | Stan Finger | @StanFinger | Stan is an award-winning journalist who twice earned nominations for the Pulitzer Prize over the course of a distinguished career at the Wichita Eagle. A native Kansan who grew up on a farm in central Kansas, Finger has also written two books: Into the Deep, a look at the deadly flash flood in the Flint Hills in 2003, and the novel Fallen Trees.

Photo Credits | Butler Community College | butlercc.edu

Scroll to top