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National summit aims to boost black college-big tech relationships
Meeting at N.C. A&T looks to open pipeline
Published Wednesday, August 8, 2018 11:14 am
by Herbert L. White | The Charlotte Post

The inaugural HBCU Diversity in Tech Summit in Greensboro aims to encourage more investment in students, curriculum and infrastructure at the nation’s historically black colleges and universities. An estimated 1 million science-related professionals will be needed by 2020 in an industry where blacks make up 4 percent of the STEM workforce.

Historically black colleges and universities are looking to make inroads in America’s science and technology sectors.

The inaugural HBCU Diversity in Tech Summit, which runs through Aug. 9 at North Carolina A&T State University, brings representatives from nearly 40 corporations with black college advocates from across the country, including nine N.C. campuses. Among the corporations participating in the three-day summit are Apple, Google, Microsoft and RedVentures.

“HBCUs are doing fantastic work across the country in terms of technology, so we just have to get the word out that we’ve got the pipeline right there on our campuses,” said U.S. Rep. Alma Adams, co-chair of the Bipartisan HBCU Caucus and convener of the summit.

HBCU supporters see their campuses as an untapped resource for developing talent in sciences, technology, engineering and math, which are historically dominated by white men. There’s growing concern of growing shortages of qualified workers.

An additional 1 million STEM professionals will be needed by 2020, according to federal data, including an estimated 600,000 unfilled engineering jobs will be available.

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last year that STEM careers grew at a rate nearly double that of other disciplines and that 93 percent of science and tech jobs produced salaries above the national average for non-STEM work. However, African-Americans make up less than 5 percent of the STEM workforce.

HBCUs produce more than a third of African Americans who earn a degree in STEM, with A&T first among them and the only N.C. school in the top 10 nationally. The Greensboro school is tops among all American colleges in the number of black engineering graduates and among the top 25 in degrees conferred to African Americans in physical sciences, computer science, and math. African Americans make up less than 5 percent of STEM employees.

“We’re trying to diversify the workforce,” Adams said, “and if you’re trying to diversify your work force…the place to go is HBCUs. That’s why we think it’s important, because these schools have a lot to offer.”

The goal of DITS is to grow partnerships by bringing HBCU leaders and tech executives for dialogue about tech culture, curriculum, and how best to produce work-ready talent.
The HBCU Caucus, which has been proactive in recruiting new relationships in the corporate and government sector, launched the HBCU Partnership Challenge last year to increase STEM commitments on campuses. Intel, Lyft, NC BCBS, and SAP are among the companies who’ve joined the initiative.

“The tech community has solved a lot of challenges in society, and of course, we of the 106 HBCUs across the country that are enrolling 300,000 students, help make those connections for them and create a pipeline as well,” Adams said. “We want to make sure we are encouraging greater participation from these companies to invest in HBCUs, to invest in our students, help us identify what we need to be doing in terms of curriculum and so forth.”

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