As part of a major effort to boost diversity in the tech industry and its own ranks, semiconductor giant Intel announced Wednesday that it will give $5 million to the Oakland Unified School District over the next five years to expand computer science pathway programs – and will guarantee internships and jobs to successful graduates.
The grant, one of the largest corporate investments in Oakland Unified, is one of the latest examples of businesses investing in schools in an effort to “grow their own” future talent.
“We knew we wanted to do something in K-12 education that targeted underrepresented minorities and we thought we should start in our own backyard,” Brian Krzanich, chief executive officer of the Santa Clara-based Intel, told USA Today in making the announcement.
Kraznich unveiled the program during a keynote address at the PUSH Tech 2020 Summit in San Francisco. The summit, organized by the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition, is focused on building diversity in the technology industry, which has been stung by reports detailing its predominantly white, male workforce.
Intel will create a “scholars” program in Oakland Unified that is expected to reach 2,400 students over the next five years, initially at McClymonds and Oakland Technical high schools. The goal is to send at least 600 graduates to college to pursue computer science careers.
The money will allow the district to expand and improve existing programs at those high schools that are focused on computer science and technology careers: a STEM – science, engineering, technology and math – pathway program at McClymonds and a computer academy at Oakland Tech, said Brian Stanley, executive director of the Oakland Public Education Fund, which helps raise money for Oakland schools and worked with Intel on the grant.
“Our vision is that we will get more Oakland kids on the pathway to the jobs both of today and jobs in the future,” Stanley said. “A lot of companies nibble around the edges of training or preparing kids for the future. This is a meaningful investment that I think shows leadership from a company like Intel and it’s going to be great for Oakland kids and great for Oakland teachers.”
The grant will allow for better training and externships for teachers to help strengthen the computer science curriculum, Stanley said, as well as enhanced mentoring and internship opportunities for students.
Intel will provide scholarship funding for students and will guarantee internships and jobs at the company upon graduation, the San Jose Mercury News reported.
The grant announcement comes as a new report decries the “dismal” computer science offerings in California high schools – especially in schools that serve high numbers of low-income students and students of color.
Three-quarters of California high schools with the largest populations of students of color do not offer any computer science courses at all, said a report released Thursday by the Level Playing Field Institute.
The report, called Path Not Found, surveyed the 20 largest districts in California, including Oakland, and found significant disparities in the availability of computer science courses. Half of the 20 largest districts do not offer any Advanced Placement computer science courses, the report said. Five out of the 20 do not offer any computer science courses at all.
“We cannot continue to have conversations about diversity in the tech industry without addressing vast gaps in opportunity for all students to gain an equitable foundation in computing,” report author Alexis Martin said in a statement. Martin is director of research at the Level Playing Field Institute, which works to bring more minorities into the STEM fields.
In Oakland Unified – where 69 percent of high schoolers are students of color – only .08 percent of the district’s 12,096 high school students are enrolled in computer science courses, the report said. In Los Angeles Unified, the state’s largest school district with 198,180 high school students, about 3 percent of students are enrolled in computer science courses.
“Computer science education is just too scarce, period, particularly in districts with demographics similar to ours,” said Oakland Unified spokesman Troy Flint. “That’s why this has been a big area of focus for us, not only through this partnership with Intel but through the overall Linked Learning Initiative.”
Oakland is one of nine California school districts participating in the initiative, which works to expand career pathway programs that combine rigorous academics with real-world work experience. In November, Oakland voters approved a $120-per-year parcel tax to fund the expansion of career pathway programs throughout the district.
The grant from Intel will help boost access to computer science courses for Oakland students and open doors to lucrative career fields, Stanley said. The district hopes to leverage the Intel investment into additional funding from other corporations, he said.
“I think the broader vision is to really provide a national model for how you can do this in urban schools,” Stanley said.