Recently, many organizations have focused on diversifying the STEM pipeline, which is designed to draw in people from the general population and lead them to the desired endpoint of employment in a STEM field. However, in the United States, the STEM pipeline has attracted mostly white and Asian men to STEM career paths. To change this, efforts are underway to bring more diverse youth into the STEM pipeline, to provide support services to these individuals throughout their education, and ultimately to create a more diverse STEM workforce.
One organization working to diversify the STEM pipeline is Verizon. Through its Verizon Innovative Learning initiative, Verizon has provided access to tech education for 1 million young Americans. The company hopes to impact 5 million more individuals by the year 2023. By providing free technology products and Internet access, along with a number of interactive programs, Verizon aims to have a positive impact on the STEM pipeline in underserved communities. Two of their interactive programs are Minority Male Makers and Rural Girls.
Minority Male Makers
Started in 2015, Minority Male Makers brings STEM education to middle school boys of color around the county. Originally offered on the campuses of four historically black colleges and universities, the program now includes Hispanic-serving institutions as well. Currently, the program is in place on two dozen college campuses throughout the United States. Each program brings a cohort of boys together for several weeks during the summer to code, design, and innovate with technology.
Verizon offers free tuition to the participants of these summer camps. It also provides the technology and curriculum used at each camp. Minority Male Makers camps offer daylong tech activities, including lessons in entrepreneurship, robotics, augmented reality, and 3-D printing. Boys also work with college-aged mentors to develop relationships with role models who are pursuing STEM education.
Due to the limited number of non-Asian minority men pursuing STEM careers, programs such as Verizon’s Minority Male Makers are vital. Programs focusing on introducing non-Asian minority male youth to STEM-related education and career options can help to reduce the ethnic and racial disparities found in STEM employment statistics. By introducing underserved youth to these educational and career options at a young age, and then providing ongoing support, hopefully these youth will grow into adults interested in pursuing STEM careers, thereby diversifying the STEM workforce.
In addition to its programming focused on boys, Verizon offers a program called Rural Girls that is focused on increasing the number of women in STEM careers. Similar to the Minority Male Makers initiative, Rural Girls brings a cohort of middle school students together for several weeks during the summer to code, design, and innovate with technology. However, in the Rural Girls program, girls from rural areas spend time each day learning about entrepreneurship, robotics, augmented reality, and 3-D printing.
The program began in 2017 on five community college campuses in three states. In 2018, the program added 11 more rural community colleges to serve a total of 1,500 middle school girls. Participants in the summer camps receive free tuition, as well as daily lunch and transportation. In addition, the program provides each participant with a tablet that students can keep after successfully completing the camp.
Like the Minority Male Makers program, the Rural Girls program does not conclude with the end of summer. Instead, the girls reunite on each campus monthly. During these sessions, the girls work on projects to solve a community problem following the guidelines established by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. This means the projects must focus on issues such as poverty, education, health and well-being, climate, peace and justice, and gender equality. The girls are challenged to use technology to address one of these issues in their local community.
The Rural Girls program also introduces participants to female role models working in STEM careers. Mentorship is an important tool in closing the gender gap in the STEM pipeline. By meeting and interacting with females from rural areas who have pursued successful careers in STEM fields, girls from these areas can feel inspired to achieve the same goals.