Facebook Looks to Diversify Tech Sector With Launch of TechPrep

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.Its latest initiative, TechPrep by Facebook, tries to get more students into the computer science and engineering pipeline by arming parents with basic resources to encourage their children in that direction.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. The initiative, which launched Tuesday, takes the form of a bilingual website (available in English and Spanish) that explains to parents what computer programming is and the career opportunities available to those in the tech industry.

The arguments for it are countless: diverse workforces improve the bottom line, get companies closer to their customers, help spur innovation…the list goes on. 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. However, one factor that stops tech companies from hiring more minorities and women is the so-called “pipeline problem.” Indeed, in 2014 just 14.7% of computer science graduates were women, 4.1% were black and 7.7% were Hispanic, according to a report by the Computing Research Association. 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 company was inspired by data showing that parents and guardians often provide key motivation for young people in black and Hispanic communities to pursue particular career options.

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. The site’s visitors can click through an interactive module to arrive at resources most relevant to their needs, whether it be online coaching services and learning tools, links to toys, games and education kits, and offline resources such as community meetups, events, and national organizations. Dubbed , the hub was designed for English and Spanish speakers and includes “hundreds of resources,” organized by age range, skill level, and the kind of information needed.

The new site is a centralized hub of resources in both Spanish and English, designed for people that want to learn more about programming—and for parents who hope to get their kids interested in tech. 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. When it comes to employment, some people of color who work in the industry say its not always about access and more about networking. “It is not a pipeline issue whatsoever,” Laura Gomez, who previously worked at Twitter before founding her own software recruiting company aimed at increasing diversity at tech companies, told National Public Radio (NPR) in July.

Reshma Saujani, the CEO and founder of Girls Who Code, which works to educate young girls about computer science, says this kind of parent-focused tool will be a game changer. “I wish it was around when I was growing up,” she says. “For my parents, the options were doctor, lawyer, or engineer…I chose lawyer out of those options.” Saujani believes the TechPrep website will be particularly effective with members of immigrant and minority communities because of its directness. 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.

Facebook plans to roll out TechPrep thorough three primary channels: community-based partners like the Boys and Girls Club, influencers in local public schools and community centers, and via Facebook, of course. 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. The need to expand the tech talent pool goes beyond the push for diversity: One million jobs that will be left unfilled if more people are not equipped with computer science skills. 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? In Fortune‘s diversity analysis of 14 major players—including Google, HP, Intel and Microsoft—Facebook was squarely in the middle of the pack in both gender and racial diversity.

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.

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