Facebook Launching TechPrep To Expose More Black And Latino Parents And Kids …

22 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Facebook Seeks to Diversify by Nurturing Minority Engineers.

A lack of diversity is something that has bedeviled Silicon Valley for years, fueling a series of lawsuits alleging the industry can be unfairly competitive and even inhospitable for women and people of color.Facebook Inc. is trying a new tactic to increase the diversity of its workforce: helping parents of minority children guide their kids into computer science.Facebook today announced the launch of TechPrep, a new online computer science and programming resource, to address what it sees as a “lack of exposure to computer science and careers in technology,” especially prevalent in “underrepresented groups including Black and Hispanic communities.” TechPrep will be available in English and Spanish, and pulls together hundreds of resources including games, books, in-person opportunities, and community events (see all the resources here). The site, TechPrep, aims to provide parents with basic information and resources about computer programming and coding so they can encourage their children to pursue those careers.

Look at any of the major tech firms’ diversity reports and you’ll see that there are proportionally fewer women, blacks and Hispanics in the tech world — particularly when it comes to engineering positions. The world’s biggest social network debuted a website called TechPrep that explains how an interest in computer programming can be turned into a career.

To help children and guardians better understand the tech industry and career opportunities, Facebook breaks down types of programming, programming benefits, and the future of programming jobs. It adds that these jobs will be rewarding for kids that choose to pursue them. “Jobs in programming and other computer occupations pay very well, and are increasing at twice the national average job growth rate according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.” 50 percent of Blacks and 42 percent of Hispanics say they would be good at working with computers, compared to 35 percent of Whites and 35 percent of Asians 77 percent of parents say they do not know how to help their child pursue computer science. The site is meant to act as a jumping-off point for anyone interested in learning about the basics — or even some more intermediate lessons — about coding. By adding people to engineering ranks who otherwise wouldn’t consider the profession, Facebook will be better able to handle a future shortage of computer scientists, said Maxine Williams, Facebook’s head of diversity.

But it’s banking particularly on the idea of engaging with parents by including an interactive tool that allows them to select their child’s age and their skill level with programming. Facebook, with the support of McKinsey and Company, launched the site with the aim of starting that education at home by focusing not only on kids — but also on parents. The Menlo Park, California-based company estimates the U.S. will have 1 million unfilled programming jobs by 2020. “That for us is a scary thing, because we’d spend all our time looking for talent,” Williams said.

A cursory search of the site reveals a range of tools, including links to software like Scratch, a free programming language aimed at younger children created by the MIT Media Lab, exercises by the education software provider Khan Academy, and Massive Open Online Courses by providers like Coursera and EdX. Minority parents “absolutely think their children could do anything, but there’s the issue of underexposure and the issue of lack of access” to programming resources. The website explains why someone might want to be an engineer instead, listing perks such as a $62,000 average starting salary and the ability to work from anywhere with an Internet connection. She says the impetus for finding diverse candidates should be with companies, and especially recruiters, who sometimes hire people who come from similar backgrounds to their own – even down to the same school. “One person will refer the person that they went to school with, and that school happens to be Stanford,” Ms. Tech Prep has specific resources for parents with children from the age of 8 to “25+” as well as for any self-starters who want to find their own resources.

It even has downloadable lessons for those who may be accessing Tech Prep from a share computer — such as at a school or library — so that you can learn your high-tech skills offline. Facebook this year said only 1 percent of its technical employees are black and 3 percent are Latino, despite the company’s efforts in the past few years to build a more diverse workforce. We found people who look like the people we’re trying to attract.” To further spread the word, Facebook is also taking elements of Tech Prep on the road. When you have the attention of more than 1 billion users, after all, you may as well use that stage. “We have that advantage,” Williams said. “And with that advantage comes the reponsibility to get this in front of the people who we think this is useful for.” So what’s in it for Facebook? Williams said that, by 2020, 1 million programming jobs will go unfilled in the United States — an oft-cited statistic from a projection by the U.S.

Without making an effort to widen the pipeline for qualified programmers, she said, it will be a real struggle to find the talent companies like Facebook needs.

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