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With Amazon Coming, Virginia Schools Look to Boost Computer Education

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Virginia Tech Innovation Campus rendering

Virginia Tech will build a $1 billion innovation campus in Alexandria.

When Amazon put out the call for a new headquarters, Virginia Tech promised to build a $1 billion, 1 million-square-foot technology-focused "Innovation Campus" if the company came to town.

George Mason University, meanwhile, said it would open a new School of Computing which would double its undergraduate population and increase the number of students enrolled in its Master's-level computing programs over the next five years.

Now, with Amazon planning to invest about $2.5 billion in a new headquarters in a Northern Virginia neighborhood just south of Washington, D.C., educational institutions in the area are preparing to make good on their promises—moves they say will help address an ongoing shortage of computer science professionals.

"It is an immense gap that has got to be filled with some urgency," said Virginia Tech President Tim Sands.

Virginia's schools have introduced a variety of STEM initiatives over the last five years, and the state is positioning itself to provide a strong tech workforce in the next decade. Last year, Virginia became the first state to adopt mandatory computer science standards for all students, laying out fundamentals to be taught across all grade levels.

Following the HQ2 announcement, Gov. Ralph Northam said the majority of the state's proposal "includes investments to double Virginia's tech talent pipeline." Northam is scheduled to meet this week with Amazon representatives, local educators, and technology professionals on an Amazon-backed tour spotlighting schools, research, and industry sites across Virginia.

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