Plan. Cooperate. Train and grow.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

We can do this.

Cape and small communities are reaching out to bridge the gap between the demand for tech workers, attracting higher paying jobs and the opportunity for Missourians to train up.

Those who embrace change know: the first leg of the journey is uphill. While the numbers are not pretty, the problem to solve is clear.

The average annual mean wage for individuals with a computer programming skill is $62,000 in Southeast Missouri; nationally, it is $85,000. Compare that with the annual mean salary of $35,000 for all individuals working in Southeast Missouri, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics.

This disparity will only grow unless we do something about it, collectively. A shared vision with innovative local government policies and incentives, chamber priorities, company investments, education and training get us there.

Embrace a cooperative strategy, and we all benefit from a projected 24 percent growth in jobs for software developers (according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) and the jobs they seek. In turn, greater Cape benefits from and becomes a microcosm of the boom seen in Kansas City, St. Louis and innovative communities nationwide.

The good news is we have the makings already in place: a strong health industry, a university and other colleges, and a growing community around the Marquette Tech District ó its Foundation, classes, competition and a co-working space called Codefi.

We just need to get behind a shared vision and harness the courage to do things uniquely better. In 2019.

It starts with:

Where to learn

To become a coder or software developer and earn more

Southeast Missouri State University: 4-year plan

SEMO offers a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in computer science, cybersecurity and computer information systems with a MS degree in applied computer science. The computer science (CS) department is comprised of nearly 500 students, one staff member and seven faculty members.

Cyber Security: Master (MS) program begins Spring 2019

SEMO is recognized nationally as one of four newly-accredited cyber security programs by the Accreditation Board (ABET). Graduates of Southeastís computer programs have gone on to be employed by companies such as Google, Garmin, Vizient, Microsoft and J.P. Morgan.

Code Labs One: 20 weeks

Code Labs One is a 20-week course designed to introduce participants to computer programming, using the popular programming language Ruby. Developed by the Marquette Tech District Foundation and housed at Codefi, students complete the same core curriculum during Units 1 and 2. In Unit 3, students get the chance to learn in-demand skills as they develop a project under the guidance of a local employer. No programming experience is needed. The start date for the next program is July 9, 2019. Classes are on Mondays and Thursdays each week from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Marquette Tower in Cape Girardeau.

Harvard CS50: self-paced course on your own schedule

Harvard CS50 is a free introduction to computer science and the art of programming for majors and non-majors alike, with or without prior programming experience. It is a self-paced course taught by the associate school of Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and taken from home or on-campus. Students who earn a satisfactory score on nine problem sets and a final project receive a certificate from HarvardX.

MOOC, edX and other free online courses

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) provide an affordable (free) and flexible way to learn new skills in the fields like computer science, data science, and more. Then if you seek professional certificats, online credentials are also offered in MicroMaster Programs through edX.


Founded by Jim McKelvey, Square Inc. co-founder, Launchcode is a coding bootcamp that connects underemployed and underserved workers to opportunities in tech at companies such as MasterCard and Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis. More than four-fifths of participants who trained and placed in tech-sector apprenticeships transitioned to permanent employment within an average of three months at salaries roughly double their previous earnings.

Youth Coding League: weekly program for middle school students

More than 250 area middle-school students participate in the Youth Coding League (Fall 2018), a weekly after-school program that introduces computer programming to students using Google CS First, which includes themes on music, sound and game design. Participating schools in 2019 include fifth- and sixth-grade students from St. Paul in Jackson, St. Vincent in Cape, Oak Ridge, Neil Holcomb, Cape Christian, Chaffee and Delta..

Google CS First

The curriculum used by the Youth Coding League is also available to parents and educators online. Developed by Google, all you need is a computer and Internet.

Where to compete, seek resources and get mentorship

Healthcare Hackathon: Saint Francis Healthcare and MTDF

The Marquette Tech District Foundation (MTDF) is partnering with Saint Francis Healthcare System for a Hackathaon on July 19-21, 2019. Computer programmers, designers, clinicians and business specialists will come together as teams to build software solutions that answer the challenges facing health care. Teams from around the country will work together over the course of a weekend and compete for $50,000 in total cash prizes.

1st50k innovative startup competition

Now in its fifth year, the 1st50k program helps turn innovative startup ideas into scalable ventures, where winning founders receive a $50k equity-free investment (an attractant for Cape) and pro-bono development services. More than 30 countries and states across the U.S. have applied in the past, and more than $250k in grants has been awarded to innovative startups. Next 1st50k applications open late spring 2019.

Where to engage

Codefi, co-working space in downtown Cape Girardeau

Codefi is a co-working space that fosters the formation and growth of technology-based companies in Cape Girardeau. More than 225 members strong, 130 jobs, 40 new startups, $15.5 million worth of investments and more than $14 million in venture equity have been realized at Codfi since its start in 2014.

Catapult Creative House

Catapult, by Southeast Missouri State University, is a two story building on Broadway in Cape Girardeau that inspirescreativity, innovation and entrepreneurship. Open to the public, with rooms available for rent, it also connects interdisciplinary teams of students, faculty and practitioners in a rich array of courses, collaborative projects and competitions. The space also featurea coffee shop, art gallery, studio spaces, computer lab and boutique, all run by students.

Marquette Tech District

With its backbone of technology and gigabyte internet in partnership with Big River Communications, the Marquette building and its neighborhood host startups, businesses and organizations as Cape Girardeauís technology district.

Where to learn to innovate

St. Louis

St. Louis is a nearby example of a community making considerable changes to restore a portion of its economy by creating an environment conducive to building and attracting new technology companies and expanding existing companies using technology. And it is working because the new reality requires its civic leaders, investors, entrepreneurs, financial institutions, and state and local government to band together to work on the solutions. Together, they have created thriving incubators (TRex, Cortex). Started Arch Grants to fund startups. And received significant support from state and local government. It has taken time, but St. Louis is well on its way to becoming a tech haven.

Kansas City

KC Digital Drive is an organization whose mission is to make Kansas City a digital leader and take advantage of its technology to improve the lives of its residents. Initiatives such as KC startup village(KCSV) and more have accelerated Kansas City as an entrepreneurial micro-community helping to grow and support entrepreneurship and Kansas Cityís ecosystem. Its innovative spirit has attracted Google as the nationís first Google Fiber City. In turn, KC is considered a hotbed for entrepreneur startups.

Tax credits and relocation incentives

States and municipalities are paying $10,000 and more to people willing to relocate. It is happening in Tulsa, New Haven, Vermont and elsewhere. Besides a healthy stipend, other attractive incentives include co-working space, homeownership programs and reverse-scholarship options. Harmony, Minnesota offers up to $12,000 toward the cost of building a home. Neighboring Paducah, Kentucky, offers everything from tax credits, living initiatives to downtown new business grants.

We are not alone. There are models and inovations that if embraced, will lead to economic prosperity and improvethe quality of life for all people in Southeast Missouri.