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Could Intel’s Partnership with Oakland Schools Be a Winning Formula for Tech Diversity?

Diversity in tech is a hot topic, with major tech companies working hard to develop effective strategies to recruit and retain women and people of color.

The partnership between Intel and two Oakland Unified School District high schools—Oakland Technical High School and McClymonds High School—is creating some promising models for diversity in tech.

Central to the partnership’s success is Intel’s approach of matching their multi-million-dollar financial investment with an investment of time and talent by their employees.

Combined with genuine openness to feedback from students, parents, and educators to evolve program offerings, this approach has seen increased engagement in just three years.

Intel Partnership Contributes to Great Year for McClymonds

At McClymonds High School, for example, the company engages anywhere from 60-70% of the student body—about half of all juniors and seniors are enrolled in the Intel-supported Engineering pathway, and all first-year students have access to mentoring from Intel volunteers.

Last school year, Mack celebrated a big success: 60 of the 62 graduating seniors were headed to college this fall, some with full-ride scholarships to top colleges like UCLA, USC, and UC Berkeley.

For a school where academics can often feel irrelevant to students navigating challenges at home or in the community, these numbers speak to the impact of wider community support.

Ninety-six percent of McClymonds students identify as non-white, with 80 percent identifying as African American. Eighty-five percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.

“Once we reach the students, we can begin the teaching,” says McClymonds Principal Jarod Scott. “We provide wraparound services for students, multiple opportunities for success and connect them with leaders and supporters beyond our campus.”

Year-Round Programs Keep Learning Relevant

With half of last year’s McClymonds graduates enrolled in the Engineering Pathway, Intel’s partnership is a vital part of the network providing support and opportunities for success.

The basic description of Intel’s partnership with Oakland schools is straightforward: sponsor and organize work-based learning in the Engineering pathway at McClymonds and Computer Science Academy at Oakland Tech to promote enhanced STEM learning during the school year, then host paid internships at Intel’s Silicon Valley headquarters and an engineering institute at Georgia Tech to enable students to apply their classroom learning in intensive college and career environments over the summer.

Students learn technical skills like computer modeling and coding, as well as “soft” skills like public speaking or networking that can be just as vital to success in a tech career.

Woven into every element of the partnership is a mentoring program that connects students with tech professionals at Intel—and that’s where the special magic of this collaboration starts to become clear.

Intel employee mentor with OUSD student

Photo credit: Hasain Rasheed Photography

Mentors Benefit Students Beyond the Classroom

“Engaging students early in the process and providing exposure to Intel role models and mentors will make a huge difference in their decision to pursue STEM degrees,” says Barbara Whye, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at Intel. “Today’s students are tomorrow’s innovators, and we have an obligation to ensure they are ready.”

In the 2017-18 school year, 72 students in the Computer Science and Engineering pathways were paired with an Intel mentor—a 200% increase from the previous year. In addition, many students are choosing to continue connecting with their mentors after their first year.

Mentees check in with their mentors weekly via email about everything from academic performance to professional aspirations, and also meet in person for activities like resume-building workshops and a job shadow day at Intel’s Santa Clara and San Jose campuses.

“My mentor goes above and beyond to talk to me and give me advice whenever I need it,” one 2018 graduate said of her Intel mentor. “She makes it known to me that she enjoys being a mentor and really does her best to relay her life lessons to me.”

Connecting with Intel employees is also important for the other adults supporting students. Through parent engagement nights at schools and parent visits to Intel headquarters, parents get a chance to ask questions, share feedback, and get advice from Intel employees on how they can best support their kids to pursue a career in engineering.

Intel Employees Have Multiple Ways to Engage

Another element in Intel’s partnership formula: offer multiple ways to support schools and students to get as big a pool of employees involved as possible.

For Intel employees who aren’t able to serve as a full-year mentor, the Intel Education Service Corps (IESC) offers a short-term opportunity to support educational initiatives in communities with high needs and limited resources.

For the past three summers, Intel employees participating in the IESC spent three weeks teaching Intel-OUSD interns multiple programming languages and mentoring them through a prototype development process as part of the Summer Internships Maker Experience.

With IESC members coming to Oakland from across Intel’s global network, students gain exposure to an even wider range of STEM-related careers and mentors’ academic and professional journeys.

Intel Mentor Session with McClymonds High School students West Oakland

Photo credit: Oakland Public Education Fund

What’s Next for Intel-OUSD Partnership

Students’ growing interest in the Intel-supported CS and Engineering pathways reflects a district-wide trend to seek out career-themed learning. Across Oakland Unified, the number of students enrolled in all pathways has increased from 57% in 2016 to 85% in 2017-18.

By listening to participants’ needs and giving students the chance to form long-term relationships with tech professionals, Intel enriches career-themed learning in a way that uniquely supports students from underrepresented groups to access tech careers that too often seem out of reach—even though those careers are right in their backyard.

Next up for the partnership: following CS and Engineering pathway graduates as they continue through college and into the world of work. Given the positive impact seen over the last three years, this is definitely one to watch.

Want to join Intel in getting more Oakland students excited about tech careers? Volunteer for Computer Science Education Week, December 3-8, 2018 »

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Mia Murrietta