USM Partners with Mississippi Coding Academies and City of Biloxi on New Training Facility

June 23, 2021

By: Van Arnold

The School of Computing Sciences and Computer Engineering at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) is partnering with the Mississippi Coding Academies and working with the City of Biloxi to offer a new training facility on the Gulf Coast.

The site, planned for downtown Biloxi, will provide access to software development and cybersecurity skills training for adults and will prepare them for entry-level cyber security industry certification. Instruction will be provided by industry experienced software development and cybersecurity practitioners. 

“We are excited to strengthen our presence and leadership in computing and cybersecurity education on the Coast through this partnership with the Mississippi Coding Academies. This is a great opportunity for adults re-entering the workforce, veterans, or recent high school graduates to upskill for jobs in software development and cybersecurity,” said Dr. Sarah Lee, Director of the School of Computing Sciences and Computer Engineering at USM.

The facility will be officially designated as Biloxi Cyber Center, a Mississippi Coding Academies affiliate program. The instructional team will consist of Senior Instructor Andrew Stamps, a former IBM employee with five years as a coding instructor for the Mississippi Coding Academies, while USM staffer, Patrick Mame, will serve in a junior instructor role. USM will provide instruction for the cybersecurity modules that will prepare participants for the CompTIA Security + certification exam. Lee will serve as Director of the Mississippi Coding Academies coast operations that will include this site and future locations in the Gulf Coast region.

U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo, who represents Mississippi’s 4th Congressional District, said that recent examples of cyber-hacking illustrate the importance of a facility like the one planned in Biloxi.

“I am pleased to hear that the City of Biloxi will soon be home to a brand-new training facility that will offer computing, coding, and cyber security training for Mississippians,” said Palazzo. “This facility is a great opportunity for the servicemen and women of South Mississippi to learn a skillset that is valuable to employers as they transition into civilian life. By taking advantage of the courses that this partnership between the University of Southern Mississippi and Mississippi Coding Academies will offer, our veterans can continue protecting our nation by honing crucial digital security skills.”

Lee points out that with an increase in cyber attacks throughout the world, cybersecurity professionals are in high demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the industry will experience job growth of 31 percent between 2019 and 2029, indicating a much faster rate than most other industries will see.

“As the cyber threat vector grows, there will be increasing demand for computer programmers who possess knowledge, skills, and abilities in digital security,” she said. “There are more job opportunities than there are college graduates to fill them. More and more entry level tech jobs are requiring an industry certification as an alternative to a college degree.”

U.S. Rep. Trent Kelly, who represents Mississippi’s 1st Congressional District, notes that the new facility will provide invaluable training for all members of the nation’s armed forces.

“Our men and women in uniform have devoted themselves in service to our great nation. These skilled servicemembers possess an excellent work ethic that will enable them to contribute to the success of any employer when they transition into the civilian world,” said Kelly. “This partnership will serve our veterans well, ensuring new career opportunities with a competitive wage. I am proud of the important work that is being done by the University of Southern Mississippi, the Mississippi Coding Academies and the City of Biloxi to meet the rapidly growing demand for cybersecurity technicians.”

Joe Donovan, director of the Mississippi Development Authority’s Office of Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, emphasizes that the collaboration is part of the state’s overarching mission.

“The goal at MDA is to build and nurture an entrepreneurial and innovative ecosystem in Mississippi with a focus on emerging technologies and attracting startup companies from outside the state,” said Donovan. “The Mississippi Coding Academies continue to be instrumental in developing a workforce that will meeting needs of technology intensive companies through preparing high school graduates who are not college bound for careers in the technology field and establish the state as a high-growth location in the fields of coding and emerging technologies. “

Mississippi Coding Academies offers an 11-month program, and the Biloxi site will provide a hybrid approach with some virtual content delivery. Mississippi Coding Academies is a nonprofit, and the program is offered tuition-free for students.

Eric Goforth, Director of Professional Services, GEO Jobe, sees the new Gulf Coast facility as a win-win venture for Mississippi and beyond.

“As technology continues to advance and drive more of our daily lives, it’s important for us to maintain a sense of community and connectedness,” said Goforth. “By both developing and employing technical talent locally, we affect positive change in our own environment.  Mississippi is already a great place to live — together, we can also make it a great place to have a career in tech.”

Applications for the new center, scheduled to launch in early August, are currently being accepted at www.mscoding.org. Informational webinars will be held throughout the spring — watch facebook.com/MSCodingAcademies for details.