Charlotte schools trying to grow its tech talent

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Charlotte-Mecklenburg School (CMS) District has about 48,000 students in its Career and Technical Education (CTE) Program. Students study careers from cosmetology to computer science.

This school year CMS introduced Programming and Software Development. The district believes this kind of coursework will help increase Charlotte's pool of tech talent.

"Make sure we have enough programs across the district that we are creating an ample pipeline," CMS CTE Director Susan Gann-Carroll said. "So that not only do employers have connections of students but also students have plenty of opportunity."

Gann-Carroll believes starting students off in CTE as young as middle school can ignite their interest in the tech field. The district believes the next time a tech company wants to set up shop, Charlotte will be a contender.

"Be able to give them numbers that show these are the number of students who are being exposed," Gann-Carroll said. "This is who says they are interested and these are the numbers who are now matriculating through this pipeline and who will be prepared, and that's the piece where we are just building that."

It is estimated currently there is a pool of about 45,000 techies in the Charlotte area. Charlotte recently lost a bid for Amazon to build its second headquarters in the city. The company says Charlotte didn't have enough people in the technical field. City leaders are now using that disappointment to make some changes.

Charlotte At-Large Councilmember James Mitchell is chair of the city's Economic Development Committee. He believes the efforts CMS and UNC Charlotte are doing to increase the tech pool will make a difference.

"We are putting our energy and working together to change that stigma of our city," Mitchell said.

UNC Charlotte has the College of Computing and Informatics. It started in 2000. It is the largest program of its kind in the state. It is estimated that in the next five years more than 3,500 students will graduate from its bachelor's, master's and doctoral programs in computer science, software and information systems, bioinformatics and genomics.

Mitchell says he is coming up with a strategy so Charlotte won't be overlooked the next time a tech company is searching for place to do business.

"I am having conversations with the University City partners," Mitchell said. "Talking about a talent development program to address that from the technical side."

Mitchell says he will bring this up in city council retreat happening very soon. He believes in the next two years, Charlotte's pool of tech workers will grow to about 80,000 people.

Back at CMS, leaders say they will continue to grow the district's CTE program. It is now looking for summer internships for more than 700 students.

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