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Maine Launches New IT Education Initiative

By guest blogger Victoria O'Dea

Maine business and education leaders have launched a new initiative designed to double the number of computer science and information technology degree graduates over the next four years.

The initiative, called Project>Login, aims to educate, engage and employ more people in the fields of computers and technology. The new Project>Login website provides a forum for students to prepare for college success, explore career opportunities, and connect with potential employers.

Project>Login is a private-public partnership developed between the University of Maine System, the state's business community, and Educate Maine, a business-led nonprofit organization that champions college- and career-readiness.

The initiative was launched in response to the lack of trained computer and technology professionals in the workforce, the organizers of the effort say. A statement from Project>Login says that by 2018, just 39 percent of computing jobs in Maine will be filled by individuals who have earned degrees in the United States, if current graduation rates continue.

According to Tanna Clews, a spokeswoman for Educate Maine, the overarching goal of Project>Login is to increase the number of computer and technology graduates in the next four years, so the focus at this point is on higher education. However, there are a number of tools Project>Login is already employing to impact middle and high school participation, said Clews, mainly through videos that will be posted on the website.

"Ultimately, we need to demonstrate that these jobs are cool. It's a different conversation than we'd have with college students," Clews told Education Week. "We know the messaging is different [for middle and high school students."

The website currently advertises paid and unpaid internship opportunities for college students with local businesses. Clews said that Project>Login is looking to develop apprenticeship programs focused on computer and information technology fields for high school students.

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