During the Dunleavy/Koch Network budget shows, Gov. Mike Dunleavy held out the prospect of federal money to pay any school district in Alaska to hold 12-week computer coding training sessions for children and adults.

He is hoping to get federal grants to start computer coding training in Alaska schools and says he has consulted with Trump administration officials about the prospects.

He portrays computer coding as a job skill within the reach of anyone with 12 weeks to spare, claiming that 650 jobs are just waiting to be filled by Alaskans who can get a certificate. You don’t need a college degree, he said.

“The moment somebody gets that certificate after 12 weeks they would get that job, paying anywhere from $75,000 on up. Twelve weeks of education that a child could get, that an adult could get, that could change their life significantly,” he said.

“You can start off with a job at $75, $85,000 a year after 12 weeks of education,” he said.

Dunleavy’s standard practice is to oversimplify all complex matters. While I’m sure that computer coding is an ideal career for some people, I suspect he is making the path to a $75,000 job sound a lot easier than it really is.

That Dunleavy doesn’t show a similar level of enthusiasm for college-level training at the University of Alaska in computer science or anything else and wants to gut its programs is reason enough to be skeptical of his pronouncements.

The state worked with Apple on “Every Alaskan Can Code,” a series of workshops in March about the topic. It is apparently going to promote coding at school districts in the months ahead.

Labor Commissioner Tamika Ledbetter talked up this idea in the March edition of Alaska Economic Trends, saying, “Our goal is to structure these academies to be small, adaptable to a range of student needs, and infused with the kind of startup mentality that drives much of the high-tech job market.”

The Alaska Journal of Commerce quoted Deputy Labor Commissioner Cathy Muñoz as saying that anybody can do this work.

“When you think of coding you think of a skill that’s complicated,” she said. “What we saw is that coding is accessible and that … coding affects all aspects of the economy. That was one of the main takeaways of this workshop—anybody can code.”

According to Course Report, which has tracked the growth of so-called coding bootcamps, the average tuition at these schools was $11,900 per student in 2018 with training lasting an average of 14 weeks for about 20,000 graduates.

The typical student at these camps is 30, has six years of work experience, at least a bachelor’s degree and has not worked as a programmer. “Anybody” can do it with the right skills, motivation and opportunity.

For more of columnist Dermot Cole’s work, go to www.dermotcole.com

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