Coding, writing computer instructions, is a burgeoning field in which Arkansas students currently have an early edge, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Friday speaking to Cabot High School students. Arkansas is leading the nation in high school computer science education, which is giving students a competitive edge in the job market, he said.


Hutchinson’s remarks, and visits to computer science classes, were part of his fourth coding tour of Arkansas high schools. Hutchinson said promoting computer science in schools is one of his earliest priorities he set for his administration; the state is now the first in the nation to require schools make the course available.


“I’m really excited about that,” because in the near future, there will be an estimated one million job openings in the computer science field, Hutchinson said. This is the future to the economy of Arkansas, he remarked.


Currently, there are 30 Cabot students in computer science, but there are about 113 enrolled for next year. Statewide, students in computer science have grown from about 200 to more than 5,500, Hutchinson remarked. “A more than 400 percent increase in students taking computer science,” he said.


Computers will soon, if not already, be touching every aspect of life; everyone will be dependent on the software that will determine how to most effectively operate, Hutchinson said.


Medical, sports, even to national security, all areas will need someone, trained in writing computer codes, to provide the software, Hutchinson said. “If you want to be a farmer, you will be dependent on software that will be able to tell you how much you need to water your crops,” he said.


While computer science training is available, it is not mandatory, Hutchinson said. There will be great opportunities for careers in computer science, “But … we do not make you take it. It is not mandatory that you take it,” he said.


It is up to students to take advantage of conditions now in their favor, Hutchinson said. “This is a choice for you; a choice many students across America do not have, and we want you to take advantage of it to consider your future.”


Hutchinson spoke of his visit to companies in the “Silicon Valley” area of California, and of executives’ interest in the computer science education Arkansas students are receiving. However, “It did not take me very long to realize all [the executives] wanted was our talent — to move out there to California,” he exclaimed. “This was not going to work.”


So began his effort to recruit technology companies to move to Arkansas, “So when you get out of school, and you want to get into computer science … you will have a great job,” Hutchison said.


A video presentation featuring executives of technology companies now in the state told of the job opportunities already open in computer science in Arkansas.


Regardless of what an “app” does, “There is someone just like you,” who wrote it, “and is probably making money off of it,” Hutchinson said.