CHARLESTOWN – Charlestown High School senior Andrew Sprinkle is thinking ahead to what skills he'll need to land his dream job later.
"With all this technological innovation during my time, we're not on dial-up [internet] anymore, WIFI exists, you don't have to hang up the phone to use the internet, technology fields are just going to keep growing, because businesses are just going to add more technology," the 17-year-old said, explaining why he takes computer science classes in high school. "It makes you a lot more hireable. You can't get away from technology now. There's so much you can do with it and so little you can do without it."
He isn't alone. Computer science offerings are growing and expanding throughout Indiana, so much so that Indiana was named one of the top 5 states in the nation for Computer Science Education and one of the top 3 for increasing state funding in that area over the past year, according to code.org's 2019 State of Computer Science Education study.
The study measured nine areas, including making sure states had K-12 technology education as well as funding for those programs. Student equity and diversity are incorporated in each of the measured areas.
Jason Graves, academy coordinator for Greater Clark County Schools, said GCCS starts computer education in elementary with the lessons getting more advanced with some middle schools offering website coding and design and high schools offering computer science pathways that help align students to potential colleges and career fields.
"The [Indiana Department of Education] and the Department of Workforce Development and the Governor's Workforce Cabinet, they're working together like I've never seen," Graves said. "In my 16 years in education, it's never been as good as it is now, with the focus on career education and getting Indiana prepared for the amount of jobs [that will be left] from retirees that are going to hit."
Mike Webb left teaching in the early 2000's for the business world, working for a Fortune 500 company. He is now back, teaching computer science at CHS.
"I fell in love with the curriculum and how it is laid out in a problem-based, collaborative fashion, which is what is exactly missing from public education," Webb said of returning to the classroom. "Let's have these kids solve problems. Let's have them fail and figure out how to fix it."
He said all jobs have some sense of technology involved, so he sees computer training as integral for the students' future careers.
"Every company needs that person. They need a network administrator, who is also versed in securing it, that maybe can do general [website] coding," Webb said. "That's what I like, just giving [students] opportunities. They don't know yet. They're 17. I'm 45 and I still don't know what I want to do when I grow up. I'm giving them sellable skills."
Webb said companies are already contacting him to get students to apply for jobs designing websites, managing social media accounts and more. He said the pay is great and the hours work with the students' schedules.
Senior Laakin Fulkerson has been gaming online since she was a kid. She started developing her own online games when she was 12. At 17, she knows she wants to pursue computer programming in college.
Webb said he is seeing a growing trend of young women pursuing technology, including Fulkerson. Webb said about 10 percent of his students are female.
"Some people feel like we're the minority, but I can do just as much as [boys] can and sometimes even more, where I'm helping the boys," Fulkerson said. "We're not treated differently. Maybe I'm used to it, because [of online gaming with a mostly male population]."
Webb said the favorite part of his job is running into former students who come to him and tell him about how computer science opened doors in their career fields.
"Some people have to work for a living. I don't have to. I come here to be inspired," Webb said. "I can't capture them all. I know I can't, but the ones I do, it's that. That's the validation."