By the BF Staff
From the May/June 2021 Issue
With a highly educated and skilled workforce—including the highest concentration of tech workers in the nation—world-class universities and unmatched digital infrastructure, Virginia already was in the pole position in the race to establish the top tech talent pipeline when the Commonwealth recently unleashed a bevy of new market-responsive talent pipeline initiatives. Virginia is injecting more than $2 billion into a Tech Talent Investment Program that cumulatively represents the largest state commitment to computer science education.
Virginia’s Tech Talent Investment Program will generate an additional 31,000 computer science grads, strengthening and enhancing CS programs beginning in K-12. Universities and colleges across Virginia have committed to the state effort to strengthen the computer science talent pipeline, with several unveiling new facilities that aim to be the crown jewels of tech talent development. The top-ticket projects include:
- Virginia Tech is tripling its Northern Virginia footprint with the development of its new $1-billion Innovation Campus in Alexandria, which will eventually make its home on 3.5 acres in the first phase of a new mixed-use development and innovation district JBG Smith is developing near the future Potomac Yard Metrorail Station.
- With state funding and matching private philanthropy, George Mason University is investing $250 million at its Arlington, VA campus, more than doubling the number of students enrolled in computer science majors to 15,000 and building a new HQ for the Institute for Digital InnovAtion that was launched at the university last year.
- Bolstered by the largest philanthropic gift in the school’s history ($120 million), the University of Virginia established the School of Data Science to address the increasing national shortage of data scientists. The School of Data Science will position UVA as a global leader training students in data analysis, machine learning, statistics, computer science and communication.
BOEING COMMITS $50 MILLION TO INNOVATION CAMPUS
Boeing recently became the first foundational partner for Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus, making a $50-million, multiyear commitment. Virginia Tech President Tim Sands said Boeing’s commitment will help jump-start the university’s effort to create the most diverse graduate technology campus in the country. The investment will provide student scholarships, help recruit world-class faculty and fund STEM programs for underserved students in K-12.
“We are extremely grateful to Boeing for this extraordinarily generous show of support,” Virginia Tech President Tim Sands said. “This is a milestone moment in our university’s history, and it will propel our work to help establish the greater Washington, D.C. area as the world’s next major tech hub.”
The investment is the largest gift ever made to the university, and builds on a more than 70-year relationship between Virginia Tech and Boeing.
“Virginia Tech has a bold and unique vision to unlock the power of diversity to solve the world’s most pressing problems through technology, and we are proud to help make that vision a reality,” said Boeing President and CEO David Calhoun, a Virginia Tech alumnus. “Boeing is dedicated to advancing equity and inclusion, both within our company and in our communities, and we look forward to partnering with Virginia Tech to build a robust and diverse STEM talent pipeline to drive the future of aerospace.”
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected 531,200 computer science and information technology jobs would be added nationally from 2019 to 2029. Through its Tech Talent Investment Program agreements with 11 universities, Virginia committed to creating 31,000 new computer science/engineering graduates over 20 years. The Innovation Campus in Alexandria is a major component to that commitment.
“We launched this campus with an ambitious vision to diversify the talent in high-tech fields,” said Lance Collins, VP and executive director of the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus. “It takes partners like Boeing to help us achieve such big goals.”
Virginia Tech’s new Innovation Campus is part of the commitment the state made to Amazon when it landed the eCommerce giant’s HQ2 project, which is bringing up to 25,000 new jobs to Arlington. When the HQ2 deal was announced, Amazon cited Virginia’s commitment to expand its tech talent pipeline as a key reason VA landed the most coveted project in years, a deal that eventually became BF’s 2018 Deal of the Year.
“We were particularly impressed by the dedication to higher education and the K-12 talent pipeline [in Virginia]. The investments the local community and the state are going to make are really going to augment the great talent pipeline, which is the primary reason why we chose the Commonwealth for this new headquarters,” said Holly Sullivan, Amazon’s head of Worldwide Economic development.
BUILDING A DIGITAL SOCIETY THAT PROMOTES EQUALITY
In June 2020, when George Mason University launched the Institute for Digital InnovAtion (IDIA), the university said the initiative would “connect George Mason’s research community with other communities to engage in cutting edge work to shape the future of our digital society, promoting equality, wellbeing, security and prosperity.”
In the next five years, through a Public-Private Partnership, Mason will combine $250 million of state funding, private philanthropy and investment from a developer partner to build the Institute for Digital InnovAtion headquarters (IDIA-HQ) on Mason’s Arlington campus. The IDIA-HQ will anchor a nascent Innovation District developing in the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor in Arlington.
More than 300 George Mason faculty and their research staff and students are working across three themes: technologies, including inventing new algorithms, digital techniques and technologies; developing and deploying computing systems; and Digital Society, defined as “engaging in critical reflection that examines the implications of digital innovation to ensure that innovators are sensitive to designing and innovating responsibly, and that key stakeholders—including users, innovators, policy-makers and the public at large—are informed about technology’s social, ethical, political and economic impacts.”
Virginia is targeting $675 million of its new computer science education funding in undergraduate education, including 250-300 new faculty lines, startup packages and new facilities; $375 million is earmarked for graduate education, including 50-75 new faculty lines. The state is amplifying its tech talent pipeline initiatives with nearly $900 million in philanthropic gifts and corporate contributions.
Virginia leads the U.S. in K-12 STEM and computer science education. VA was the first state to adopt computer science standards across the K-12 curriculum, integrating these disciplines into Standards of Learning. CodeVA, a non-profit that partners with schools, parents and communities to bring equitable computer science education to all of Virginia’s students, provided more than 20,000 hours of professional development to more than 1,000 teachers in 2020 through a “CS Hub” network of seven training locations statewide.
Virginia’s G3 initiative offers free community college for low and middle-income students to pursue degrees in high-demand fields, including information technology, computer science and advanced manufacturing. Virginia also offers short-form workforce credentials and training in more than 40 high-demand fields through its FastForward program. Virginians have cumulatively earned more than 19,000 credentials since the program’s inception, in high-tech fields including CompTIA A+/Network+ and Information Systems Security.
The Virginia Talent Accelerator Program is partnering with Virginia’s community colleges to integrate solutions for start-up and long-term talent development needs. The partnership is deploying Industry 4.0 technologies to develop talent pipelines in robotics and mechatronics, credentialing through fast-track certificate degrees and apprentice programs.
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