North Dakota Digital Workforce Coalition – Why Computer Science


Opportunity for Computer Science and Cybersecurity Education in North Dakota

As technology becomes more and more integrated into every aspect of our society, it is critical that students receive a high-quality computer science and cybersecurity education. The North Dakota Digital Workforce Coalition is working to ensure that all ND students will receive the fundamental computer science and cybersecurity skills necessary for success no matter which career path students choose.

Policy Priorities of the Digital Workforce Coalition

While there are many policy objectives being pursued by different state departments such as the Department of Public Instruction (DPI), the Information Technology Department (ITD), and the North Dakota University System (NDUS), the collaborative efforts of the Digital Workforce Coalition will focus on the Computer and Cyber Science (CCS) K-12 Education Initiative.

This initiative will take a three-pronged approach:

  1. Develop Computer and Cyber Science Standards
  2. Secure CCS Credentialing Authority for the North Dakota Superintendent of Public Instruction during the 2019 Legislative Session
  3. Secure funding to provide teacher training for a total of 700 in-service teachers statewide (one teacher trained for every 160 students in North Dakota)
    • Governor Burgum has proposed appropriating $3 million for this purpose in his proposed budget, which can be found here.

The efforts of the Digital Workforce Coalition also support recommendations made by the Workforce Development Council to address the state’s workforce shortages. A key theme of this report, prepared for Governor Burgum in October 2018, is the need to address the technical skills gap by developing a stronger connection between education and industry to ensure earlier career exposure for students; aligning skills and credentials with employer’s needs; developing more work-based learning opportunities for students; and expanding technical education opportunities. The Workforce Development Council’s report can be found here.

North Dakota’s Need for Computer Science and Cybersecurity Education

While computer science and cybersecurity skills are relevant to every career path, they are especially important to the agriculture and energy industry, two of the biggest industries in our state:

  • Precision agriculture relies on connected sensors and equipment to identify levels of moisture, crop growth, soil nutrients, and other factors with pin-point accuracy, helping farmers be more efficient and increase production.
  • The energy industry is benefitting from technologies that are expanding our access to shale, natural gas, and other natural resources, while improving safety and environmental protections.

These skills are critical to up-and-coming industries that have chosen to make North Dakota home due to our tech-friendly ecosystem and ability to train and retrain talent. Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) and counter-UAS efforts in the state are booming, with demonstrable benefits in everything from wind turbine inspection, to high-res crop photography, to private sector and military opportunities globally.

Parents throughout the state and across the country are recognizing the importance of a solid foundation of computer science and cybersecurity education: nationally, 93% of parents want their child’s school to teach computer science, but only 35% of high schools teach computer science.

The Future of Computer Science and Cybersecurity Education in North Dakota

Investing in K-12 Computer Science and Cybersecurity Education will not only advance the state’s workforce development priorities by preparing kids for the jobs of the future, it's also an insurance policy to protect investments being made in our state’s government infrastructure. Today’s ITD staff will need qualified replacements and we need to invest in developing local talent.

Expanding teacher credentialing authority for DPI will allow unencumbered abilities for schools to offer and teach CCS courses in all grades and content disciplines. This will allow maximum flexibility for teachers and local school districts and administrators to decide the best way in which to build and implement the best curriculum to meet the new standards.