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Apprenticeships could solve tech’s diversity problem

Apprenticeships could solve tech’s diversity problem

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In case you missed it, Howard University and Google recently announced that they were partnering to attract more African American students to study computer science, targeting a segment of the tech population that is notoriously underrepresented (along with women).

The Google/Howard partnership is a small step (albeit an important one) with a specific goal — to bring more people of color into the tech workforce. The industry is truly missing out on a lot of great talent. However, the fact is that only by changing the way we recruit, inspire, and educate (train) students from the outdated “lecture and regurgitate” mode to a more progressive model, where students learn practical skills and improve their problem solving and collaboration skills via hands-on projects, can we hope to begin filling all the jobs now and in the future.

Google’s step follows a series of moves by corporations, wealthy individuals, and entrepreneurs to attract more talent to the tech industry. Paul Allen donated$40 million to the University of Washington’s computer science department, while Boeing awarded $6 million in grants to reinforce STEM education in Washington. Last year, SalesForce CEO Marc Benioff announced that SalesForce donated $8.5 million to San Francisco Unified School District and $2.5 million to Oakland Unified School District to hire STEM teachers, as well as buying the computer systems they need.

Businesses need more skilled STEM workers. There are a quarter-million job openings for software developers in the U.S. alone and half a million unfilled jobs that require tech skills — and the forecast predicts 2.4 million unfilled STEM jobs by 2018.

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