Guest post by Janice Zdankus, Vice President, Quality, Hewlett Packard Enterprise
Photo credit: Chuck Barry and Santa Clara University
In a turbulent economy with an uncertain job market, a career in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) remains one of the most reliable paths to a rich, rewarding career. In fact, computer and IT jobs in the US are projected to grow 12 percent by 2024, faster than the average for all other occupations1. But, as hard as it may be to believe, the U.S. Department of Labor projects that there won’t be enough qualified students to meet the demand – with more than 1 million computing job openings alone projected by 20242.
In particular, women and minorities are chronically underrepresented in STEM courses. White men earn 70% of the computing degrees, despite making up only 30% of the population. And many who do enter the STEM field drop out before completing their degrees.
Why is this happening? There are many factors, but a key reason students are leaving the STEM education track is due to a lack of clarity and support throughout their education journey. Students often face a confusing mix of disparate, unaligned programs. When they encounter issues, they often have no one to turn to. Sadly, many drop out – losing a golden opportunity for a fulfilling career.
In an effort to bridge this gap, HPE, the Women’s Innovation Council, YWCA Silicon Valley and a number of university partners are pleased to announce the launch of the pilot phase of Curated Pathways™ -- an IT solution developed to help young women and minorities navigate their journey, with an emphasis on computing careers.
A web-based app, Curated Pathways acts as a “virtual guidance counselor”. It uses gamification to engage students – they can select activities that build interest and engagement while building their curated pathways. Then a robust recommendation algorithm guides them on their path and helps them make critical choices. What courses are available? Which is the right course for me? How can I choose? Once I’ve completed this course, how do I know what to do next? What are my options?
The pilot will take place in Silicon Valley. This was truly a collaborative effort and would not be possible without the enormous contribution of key partners. YWCA Silicon Valley is the lead organization, due to the deep engagement they have around the country with local schools, and the alignment to their mission of eliminating racism and empowering women. Other key contributing partners include Santa Clara University, Purdue University -- both contributing to the development of the technology and research methodology -- and nonprofits NACME and NCWIT.
The HPE Foundation is committing funding over the next three years to ensure Curated Pathways’ success, in addition to funding from Women’s Innovation Council members and the United Engineering Foundation. The potential to positively impact the pathway for minorities and women students to computer science careers is enormous. Based on the results of the pilot in Silicon Valley, the goal is to make Curated Pathways available to all STEM disciplines across the country.