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Walking the Talk
Tech Giants Laying Groundwork for More Diverse, Equitable Tech Economy in US

HP, HPE, Intel and Microsoft are launching the HBCU Technology Conference, to equip students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities to excel in tech careers; while Apple has expanded its Racial Equity and Justice Initiative with $30M worth of new programs.

Five of the US’ biggest tech companies are putting their money where their mouths are when it comes to increasing equity, diversity and access to the skills necessary to excel in the tech world — by putting education at the center of major new initiatives.

HP, Intel, Microsoft host conference for HBCUs to expand access to tech careers

Image credit: HP Inc

HP Inc. has teamed up with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Intel and Microsoft to launch a first-of-its-kind technology conference for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) across the US. The virtual conference will promote learning, networking and lasting connections to inspire digital transformation and accelerate digital equity.

COVID-19 reinforced the new reality that organizations must learn to pivot to a virtual environment in days, not years. For HBCUs, which are engines of social mobility for many Black and African Americans, forming the right partnerships to accelerate digital transformation is key to being successful in this new world. As part of HP’s ambition to become the world’s most sustainable and just tech company, it is aiming to equip HBCUs to meet the next economy’s student needs through the HBCU Technology Conference.

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“The diverse talent that HBCUs foster are integral to driving innovation — not just in the tech industry but across all sectors. Diversity is a business imperative; when we attract and nurture people from diverse backgrounds and increase their representation in the workplace, we can strengthen the company’s long-term growth,” said Lesley Slaton Brown, Chief Diversity Officer at HP Inc. “We look forward to building on our existing partnerships with HBCUs to raise the bar and put together this one-of-a-kind initiative that can help build a more diverse, equitable and inclusive society where HBCU students have equal access to opportunity; and their institutions are armed with the knowledge needed to unlock transformational growth."

HP says it has been receiving strategic guidance from HBCUs of different sizes in order to create an inclusive and impactful experience for HBCU students, IT staff and faculty/administration. The conference has dedicated tracks for these groups because accelerating digital transformation requires a cultural shift among all higher education stakeholders. Five half-day virtual sessions will be held on September 14, 16, 22, 28, and 30. All HBCUs can attend for free.

“The HBCU Technology Conference will open and expand opportunities for teaching, learning, collaborating, mentoring and internships not only for our students, faculty and staff, but for all HBCUs,” said Kimberly Ballard-Washington, president of Savannah State University. “This event is a wonderful collaboration between HP and HBCUs, helping to prepare the students to have a career in various technology sectors and providing the digital transformation needed now and in the future.”

Preparing HBCU students with tech skills of the future

The conference’s student track has a Future of Work Academy to help students gain emerging tech skills (ex: automation, machine learning, chatbot, etc) and demonstrate how students with different academic backgrounds can build meaningful careers in tech — which builds on each of the participating tech giants’ (HPE, Intel and Microsoft) ongoing efforts to enable a more inclusive, skills-based tech economy in the US. Students can participate in a ‘Bot a Thon’ during the conference; and select finalists will have the opportunity to interview for internship positions at HP and Microsoft next year. Students can also access online learning programs such as HP LIFE and the Microsoft Learn and Future of Work Academy Cloud Skills Challenge to continue building their skills after the conference.

Learn more about the HBCU Technology Conference, as well as HP Inc’s ongoing partnership with HBCUs and efforts to enable an equitable and diverse next generation of tech workers, here.

Apple commits $30M more to broaden Racial Equity and Justice Initiative

Image credit: Apple

Meanwhile, Apple has committed $30 million more to its Racial Equity and Justice Initiative (REJI) — which aims to support students, innovators and advocacy organizations that are leading the charge in creating a more just, inclusive world. These new projects include a Global Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) Equity Innovation Hub; expanded education initiatives for community colleges and HBCUs; a new cohort of the Apple Entrepreneur Camp immersive tech lab including Hispanic/Latinx founders and developers; and funding for leaders working to advance criminal justice reform and environmental justice.

These new commitments build on Apple’s $100 million initial investment in REJI that aims to help elevate equity-focused solutions across the academic and advocacy landscapes. As 60 percent of undergraduate students at HSIs and HBCUs are Hispanic/Latinx or Black, Apple’s new projects will help equip the next generation of students and leaders to dismantle structures that perpetuate inequities and institutional racism.

“The call to build a more just and equitable world is an urgent one, and at Apple, we feel a collective responsibility to help drive progress forward,” said CEO Tim Cook. “The commitments we’re sharing will help the young leaders of today and tomorrow start new businesses, develop groundbreaking innovations, and inspire countless others to join the fight for justice. We’re grateful to all of the trailblazing organizations we’re partnering with for their tireless dedication to equity as we work toward a better future together.”

Expanding access and equity in education

Apple is partnering with California State University (CSU) to launch a Global HSI Equity Innovation Hub. This public-private partnership between the state of California, the CSU, and Apple will work in collaboration with HSIs throughout the nation to foster student success by equipping learners — including Hispanic/Latinx, Black and Asian American students — with skills for high-demand careers. Apple’s commitment will support the initiative’s main location at the CSU Northridge (CSUN) campus in Los Angeles; and provide Apple technology and design support as the project expands. The partnership will launch equity-centered programming focused on transforming HSIs throughout the CSU and across the nation; and aims to establish regional HSI Equity Innovation hubs at affiliate colleges and universities, and through partnerships with national organizations committed to advancing this work.

“By reframing service through an equity and racial-justice lens, the Global HSI Equity Innovation Hub seeks to exponentially accelerate educational equity across the CSU system and the nation,” said Erika D. Beck, president of CSUN. “We are thankful for Apple’s support as we aim to shift away from thinking about what students must do to be successful, instead thinking about what our institutions must do to successfully serve the Latinx community and students from other underrepresented groups. The Equity Hub at CSUN is an ideal site to continue collaborating on proven strategies that benefit all.”

Applying an interdisciplinary approach, programming will focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and will leverage technology to inspire students to become the innovators and creators of the future in STEM.

In partnership with Tennessee State University, Apple is also supporting the expansion of the HBCU C^2^ initiative to 11 new schools — including Clark Atlanta University, Florida A&M University, and Texas Southern University — bringing the total number of community coding centers and regional hubs on HBCU campuses to 45 across the country. The program, which launched in 2019, empowers and supports HBCUs to bring coding and creativity experiences to their communities, using Apple hardware and its Everyone Can Code and Everyone Can Create curricula.

“In the three years since we teamed up with Apple, we’ve brought coding and creativity courses and experiences to thousands of HBCU students and community members,” said TSU president Dr. Glenda Baskin Glover. “We’re proud of all that we’ve accomplished and cannot wait to continue building this impactful initiative together as we create a more equitable future, open doors to new opportunities, and ensure our students have access to cutting-edge careers.”

Apple is also expanding its REJI work in a number of other areas:

  • Elevating app founders, technologists from underrepresented backgrounds —Apple’s Entrepreneur Camp will welcome its first cohort of Hispanic/Latinx founders and developers next year. Participants in the immersive tech lab for app developers from underrepresented backgrounds will have the opportunity to work with Apple experts, engineers, and leaders to take their app experiences to the next level; and become members of the influential Apple Entrepreneur Camp alumni network.
  • Investing in criminal justice organizations — Apple will invest in racial justice organizations including the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, The Council on Criminal Justice, Innocence Project, The Last Mile, Recidiviz, The Sentencing Project and Vera Institute of Justice. These commitments will also help to promote racial, ethnic, economic and gender justice, as well as the safeguarding of youth and working to end the practice of extreme sentences in the criminal justice system. Apple is also partnering with a number of community colleges to implement programs that will help incarcerated and paroled individuals learn new skills and work to prevent recidivism.
  • Supporting environmental justice organizations — Apple has also committed funding to Black-, Hispanic/Latinx-, and Indigenous-led organizations that are grounded in advancing environmental justice, and advocating for communities most impacted by climate change and environmental disparities. Recipients include Hispanic Access Foundation, First Nations Development Institute, and the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice. Funding will expand critical work emphasizing environmental stewardship, advocacy, and leadership in overburdened communities; and expand upon Apple’s Impact Accelerator, which helps combat systemic barriers to opportunity, while also advancing innovative solutions for communities impacted by climate change.

Learn more about Apple’s commitments to support inclusive tech education, criminal justice and environmental justice here.


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