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Erie Innovation District Assists Erie School District, Mercyhurst in Receiving PASmart Grant

Due to the efforts of a team led by Mercyhurst University faculty and Erie Innovation District team member Afzal Upal, a PA Smart Grant of $500,000 will soon have a profound impact on education and work force development in the city. This will involve Mercyhurst University working directly with the Erie School District to develop computer science curriculum for K-12 students in order to prepare them for the growing digital economy.


According to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor, computing jobs are projected to grow at a rate of 9.1 percent from 2014-2024. This number is significantly higher than that of all other jobs, which are expected to grow at a rate of 5.1 percent. These figures represent a significant area of opportunity for the city to prepare its future workforce, giving them the tools and information needed to succeed in this field in the future.


“Unfortunately, educational institutions in Erie are currently unable to meet demands of the rapidly changing workforce” said Upal.


In collaboration with the Erie Innovation District, Mercyhurst University and the Erie School District will look to meet these demands and prepare students for future career opportunities in the computer science field. The district will continue playing a key role in this initiative, as it will remain active in working with local businesses and attracting new companies and opportunities to the Erie area, so that students can take advantage of internship opportunities and potential employment as they grow. EID plans on hosting programming events or “hackathons” as well as developing an Erie E-Sports league that will attract inner city youth to the field of computing, showing them the relationship between computer science and gaming.


While EID has been successful in creating an ecosystem of high-tech startups, educational partners and business organizations working together, their continued progress requires the availability of a workforce with computing skills, noted EID CEO Karl Sanchack.


“This is a momentous opportunity enables us to leverage our widely respected expertise in intelligence studies, computer science, big data and cyber security to benefit the young people of Erie, especially under-served populations, which is consistent with our Mercy mission,” said Mercyhurst University President Michael T. Victor. “We are particularly pleased to partner once again with Erie’s Public Schools as we have done successfully on numerous occasions, and to work in tandem with the Erie Innovation District as it continues to make gains in transforming Erie into a major innovation hub.”


This is a tremendous win for the Erie community and the future of Erie youth, as we aspire to create an environment that is abundant in family sustaining opportunities for all.

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