BIT-Nashville High School Program Seeks Diversity in Technology

People of color still lag behind when it comes to complementing the tech workforce. Although booming tech locations like Silicon Valley have tried to be more inclusive, breaking into the industry remains a struggle for black and Latino populations. The same can be said of the greater Nashville, Tennessee, area where the local chapter of a global nonprofit focused on improving diversity in technology, Blacks In Technology Foundation (BIT), is trying to remedy this with a new high school curriculum.

With the help of Tennessee State University and LocalTek, a company that specializes in developing curricula and training for technology, BIT-NashvilleAccording to a Press release Last week. The three-year program, LocalTek – Thrive, kicked off at the start of this school year for RePublic juniors, and will add seniors to the mix for the second and third years. Pending more funding, the hope is to include a number of other schools in the Middle Tennessee area that are similar to RePublic, according to BIT-Nashville President Holly Rachel and Vice President Lena Winfree, who recently spoke with Government Technology in videoconference.

Through the program, which has recruited 150 juniors, in-person and virtual instruction will cover a host of technologies such as SQL (structured query language), data science, machine learning, robotics and application development , involving real-world training for the industry. certifications and other “nuances” in the tech curriculum, Winfree said. BIT also partnered with Dell Technologies, which donated 20 computers to form a computer lab in RePublic schools. Rachel and Winfree said they plan to add more computers to accommodate every student in every class. Through Tennessee State University’s dual enrollment program, teens who go through LocalTek – Thrive will receive six credit hours each year, they said.

“We believe that by teaching our academics computer skills, including coding, app development and robotics, we are teaching them the skills of tomorrow that will give them a competitive edge in the future job market,” said Allison Arth, director of IT for RePublic Schools. said in a public statement.

Rachel said she and Winfree, who co-hosted the Nashville chapter of the BIT in March 2021, noticed a drop in the number of color tech workers and learned it was likely the result of a lack of exposure to the subject at an earlier age. . They intentionally targeted schools, like RePublic, with a high percentage of non-white students, hoping to spark greater interest in high-paying tech careers.

“There really wasn’t a consistent technology education in the schools,” Rachel said. “That’s when we kind of started thinking about…how to provide something that was in front of the kids every day, to really introduce them to the tech industry, to these journeys career because it’s a high-growth career.”

Exposure to the program, which will be taught by people hired through the program, Winfree added, will potentially open the eyes of kids who otherwise didn’t know they could have careers in tech, because no one who works in the field no one looks like them.

“There is very little or no representation [of people of color] in the technology industry, and [students won’t pursue it] if they don’t see the visualization and the people who look like them,” she said GovTech. “So what we did was go to the schools [with] some mentors… who look like you, who do this work, who have changed their family tree in terms of money and monetary gain, depending on the technology and the technology roles they are in.

Organizers said ideally the program should be introduced to the classroom much earlier – third grade, according to Winfree – but for the pilot, offering it to juniors helps prepare them to fill out college admissions applications. university and change their mindset to what extent they might want to pursue.

“The goal is to make kids aware of career opportunities in technology and increase their interest in a career in technology,” Rachel said. “It’s really part of building that talent pool.”

Giovanni Albanese Jr. is a staff writer for the Center for Digital Education. He has covered business, politics, breaking news and professional football during his 15+ year journalism career. He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Salem State University in Massachusetts.

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