Mukwonago High School student
Max Kizewski works on HTML coding in
Exploring Computer Science class.
MUKWONAGO — Responding to the projected skills gap between
available technology jobs and qualified employees, a group
of Mukwonago High School teachers will launch an IT academy
next year in hopes of preparing students for the future job
By pairing computer science courses with job skills
training, coordinators say, the academy will be the first of
its kind in Wisconsin.
Computer science teacher Scott Pratt said he and his
colleagues are motivated by Department of Labor statistics
indicating that by 2020 the number of IT jobs will outpace
applicants by three times.
“We’re hearing the statistics about the need and we feel we
can help satisfy that need,” computer science teacher Jim
The school is in a particularly good position to create such
an academy, Pratt said. Currently, 185 students are enrolled
in computer science courses, a record high for the school.
With three certified computer science teachers on staff, the
school also has an unusually high number of qualified
instructors, he said.
“There are not many certified computer science programming
teachers nationwide — it’s extremely rare,” Pratt said. “By
comparison, the entire Madison School District has one. We
think we have a school that has a unique amount of resources
to accommodate this.”
The vision of the academy is to leverage the existing course
offerings while adding components that will help make
students more employable.
Students will take a total of four credits, or about six
classes, through the academy. The rest of their schedule
will be filled with general coursework.
“It’s not a charter; it’s not a school within a school,”
Ferwerda said. “It’s a program that we’re giving kids to
further their experiences.”
Similar to picking a major, students will choose one of
three paths when entering the academy: programming/ software
development, networking/hardware or software applications.
In their senior year, students will complete a capstone
course, which will include an independent study and
workplace experience at area businesses.
Instruction will be influenced by the academy’s governing
board, which includes various businesses in IT-related
fields. Academy Coordinator Jennifer Wolf said the teachers
will seek input from those businesses to stay up-to-date on
the needs of a field that is continually changing.
Students will leave with a certificate that academy
coordinators hope will put them in advanced standing and
give them an advantage when looking for jobs.
Many interested in academy
There is no cap on enrollment at this point, but if early
indicators hold true, the first cohort could be larger than
coordinators originally anticipated. At a recent
informational meeting, 176 people attended to hear more
about the program, Pratt said.
Junior Jager Geiche is already signed up and excited about
“I’m hoping it will help me figure out what part of computer
science I want to go into and I think the apprenticeships
they offer us will definitely help because it will give us
real-world experience to show what is for us or not for us,”
Academy teachers also plan to foster interest among younger
students by offering an after-school program called “Code
Ninjas” at each of the Mukwonago Area School District’s
“We want to give them an idea of what it’s like now, so when
they get to high school, maybe they will want to take a
course like this,” computer science teacher Sarah Wardecke
said. “We’re really looking forward to teaching these
youngsters how to code. Because anyone can code at any age.”
In a male-dominated field, academy coordinators are
particularly interested in recruiting females into the
industry. Code Ninjas could be a good place to start,
“I think if you catch them early enough, they realize this
is something they can do,” she said. “For myself, it was
college when I took my first computer science class ... And,
being a girl, I thought this isn’t for me, I’m not good
enough, but then I fell in love with it. So, looking back, I
wish I could have had experience earlier on.”