By Jerry Augustin, Contributing Writer
Posted 2:30 AM EST, Sat., April 1, 2017
In an effort to increase diversity in their technical roles, Google has come to a partnership with Howard University to open Howard West, “a three-month, summer Computer Science residency for rising juniors and seniors in the University’s Computer Science program,” according to Howard’s Office of University Communications.
Howard West will be located in Mountain View, California and will serve as a space for students to immerse themselves in coding instruction and tech culture. About 25 to 30 juniors and seniors will be selected to spend 12 weeks during the summer at Google, learning from experienced engineers and Howard faculty, all while gaining course credits.
“Within five years, 740 students will have matriculated. Howard West will serve the entire tech ecosystem – not just Google. For the University, this is another opportunity to provide innovative, world-class learning experiences to its students, preparing them for work and leadership in the community. Students will obtain 12 credits toward graduation as instruction through an immersion curriculum as part of the program,” said Howard President Wayne A.I. Frederick.
Google’s goals for Howard West is to boost the amount of Black students in the tech industry. By creating more spaces for minorities to learn the ins and outs of the industry, Google will accomplish just that. In addition to students having an opportunity to learn at Google, professors will also have a chance to spend six weeks at Google and learn about the latest achievements in tech. Having knowledgeable professors will provide mentors and role models to aspiring black STEM students that need them.
Though more than one-third of African Americans receive computer science degrees from HBCUs, they have a difficult time finding jobs in the Silicon Valley. Generally, African Americans are underrepresented in the STEM field. According to a 2013 U.S. census, African-Americans make up 6.4 percent of STEM workers, compared to the 70.8 percent and 14.5 percent of whites and Asians, respectively.
There have been several programs started to help Black students learn valuable skills that will help them in the tech industry. For example, the goal of Van Jones’ company, Yes We Code, is to teach 100,000 low-income children to write code. Yes We Code is an initiative of his organization, Rebuild the Dream. Rebuild the Dream’s mission statement is to “fight for an economy that works for everyone, and an America that delivers on its promise of opportunity for all.” Black Girls Code teaches computer coding to young girls in underrepresented communities. They engage with the community through workshops and after school programs. Founded in 2011, Black Girls Code aims to “provide African-American youth with the skills to occupy some of the 1.4 million computing job openings expected to be available in the U.S. by 2020, and to train 1 million girls by 2040.”
Howard West will undoubtedly contribute toward bridging the gap between the tech industry and Black students, creating new opportunities for plenty of otherwise underrepresented students.