Operation Reboot: Partnering for STEM Success

“Science is more than a school subject, or the periodic table, or the properties of waves. It is an approach to the world, a critical way to understand and explore and engage with the world, and then have the capacity to change that world..."   
President Barack Obama, March 2015
President Obama is right, but while his $3 billion dollar STEM initiative aims for students across the nation to realize the many benefits of a science education, for historically underrepresented students this still appears worlds away. Nonprofits, nationwide, have been working with schools to train teachers, increase access to STEM curriculum and support struggling students at risk of being left behind in order to address the President’s STEM challenge. And U.S. corporations are also heeding the call. To date corporations have invested billions of dollars annually into education programs, most of which are geared towards STEM. Yet, according to a report released from the organization, Change the Equation (a coalition of Fortune 500 companies focused on increasing access to STEM education), there has been little to no progress made over the past decade when it comes to diversity in the workplace. In fact in corporations, such as those that make up the vast technological landscape of Silicon Valley, unequal representation of historically underrepresented groups (women and minorities) remains a prevailing issue. More needs to be done and more can be done.
While systemic inequities in our national education system continues to be an obstacle for underserved and historically underrepresented youth, another more glaring issue is access. Research has posited that early exposure to science and math improves a child’s interest, adoption and their likelihood of pursuing higher education in STEM related subjects. However, recent data from the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has revealed that many minority students lack access to many of these opportunities.
Corporate donors can do more to address this issue by centering their giving on programs that explicitly support inclusion while also creating access to STEM education for girls and minority students. Moreover, their giving should emphasize impact measurement to not only monitor program performance but more importantly to track beneficiary outcomes for success. Nonprofits and corporations with a vision to increase the STEM workforce pipeline need to band together to integrate this approach in both programming and giving to impact results. It's through this evidence-based partnership that donors and nonprofits can expand STEM opportunities and manifest an equitable STEM workforce.  
However, many nonprofits are not data driven and lack an integrated evaluation system to track program effectiveness. Furthermore, many nonprofits are not financially capable of meeting these expectations. But corporates can help bridge this knowledge and capacity divide. As corporate donors want to understand how impact will be measured they can encourage nonprofits to embrace implementing tools and offer ways to support this. 
Two organizations that have successfully incorporated the use of data in their educational models, while strategically availing a network of partners to source their programs are Year Up and Beyond 12. Both organizations are not only leveraging technology and classroom training to empower young girls and minorities in STEM; the two organizations are tracking and producing effective long-term results through a diverse community of partners. This is reflected in both their student graduation rates and post-secondary career success. 
The equipment of a quality education and skills training are strong criteria for gaining entry into today’s workforce. Year Up, an educational nonprofit serving 13 metro areas including San Francisco, runs a successful one-year career training program for young adults from low income backgrounds to address this. Their training program provides a mix of hands on skills development, access to college credit eligible coursework and a corporate internship opportunity. To date, their professional and personal development program has trained 14,000 young adults with graduates interning at over 250 corporate partners that include the likes of Salesforce, Google, Facebook, and JP Morgan Chase. The combination of professional training and community participation has successfully prepared underserved students for promising careers that are tracked through an extensive alumni network – ensuring that mentorship support extends beyond the classroom. 
Beyond 12, a young national nonprofit, is providing excellent results in higher learning through its data driven approach to K-12 and higher education. With a mission to increase the number of college educated graduates coming from low income, first generation and historically underrepresented backgrounds, they have partnered with over 120 schools and educational nonprofits to support their innovative student alumni system. Funded by corporates and foundations, Beyond 12 is bridging the gap between lower and higher education systems through their use of data to chart, measure and share on student post-secondary progress. Their programs are ensuring that underrepresented and underserved students get to experience every opportunity of educational and career success. 
Donors working in partnership with nonprofits and community stakeholders to understand their needs will ultimately define a more concerted level of impact. This will steer donors towards measuring impact goals (short term and long term) and developing purposeful engagement that targets practical ways to deliver and track beneficiary program outcomes. Diversifying our nation’s workforce means increasing opportunities for women and monitories to participate and engage fully in STEM industries. This can best be achieved through strategic partnerships in both STEM programming and giving.  Together, more than ever, donors and nonprofits are best positioned to support the provision of opportunities for girls and minority students to close the learning gap. Failing to address this ongoing challenge will not only  curtail our competitive edge in the tech sector but will slow the capacity of future generations to take part in a changed (more technologically sophisticated) world.
For information on how SVCF can help assist your strategic giving and interest in Diversity and Inclusion and STEM education, please contact us at donate@siliconvalleycf.org