Tech Companies Fund STEM Education

Connexeo - 10/03/2018

Funding for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) programs in K-12 schools has historically come from within school districts’ normal operations budgets. And, of course, many states have reduced the rate of spending on schools and capped the property-tax rate school districts can assess.

For some, the corporate world – and especially the technology sector – has come to the rescue. The trend for STEM funding has been private-sector grants earmarked to enhance instruction in these subjects in both K-12 and higher education settings.

And why not? These donor companies are going to need employees going down the road who have the science, math and engineering skills required to perform the jobs these companies will need filled. Even though one study, mentioned in Inside Philanthropy, states that the number of STEM graduates could be more than the number of jobs available, many of the STEM grants are geared toward narrowing the gender and racial gaps in STEM employment.

For example, Cragislist founder Craig Newmark recently used the crowdfunding platform DonorsChoose to give $1 million to help teachers in low-income areas fund STEM-related projects, according to an article in Fast Company. Teachers helped design the grant with Newmark and DonorsChoose, and a matching component will add $850,000 to the total funding.

Elsewhere, Akamai Technologies, through its foundation, is establishing a $50 million endowment to promote STEM education in K-12 schools internationally, in regions where Akamai has offices, with an emphasis on math, Inside Philanthropy reported.

One of Akamai’s primary educational missions is to encourage girls to explore STEM careers. Thus, the Akamai Foundation’s philanthropic partners with this endowment include Girls Who Code, Math Prize for Girls and a Boston Museum of Science-run mentoring program for young women in STEM.

As the article states, “Investing in STEM education is seen as part of a long-term solution for tech’s diversity problems. Hiring women and minorities is easier when picking from a diverse pool of candidates. Also, given long-term demographic changes in the workforce, it's critical that STEM education reach a wider swath of young people — including from underserved communities — to ensure that tech companies can meet their 21st century labor needs.”

Salesforce is another key technology company with a large investment in elementary and secondary STEM education through its School Ready programs. “Our investments aim to improve the quality of schools and opportunities in the communities where we live and work so that more students can thrive in tomorrow’s workforce,” according to the company’s website.

Salesforce, best known for its customer relationship management software, recently donated $500,000 to Indianapolis Public Schools to launch the Information Technology Academy at George Washington High School this school year. The academy is designed for students to receive hands-on tech training. It also donates heavily -- $12.2 million last year – to the San Francisco Unified School District, which has become the first district in the nation to have a computer science curriculum for every grade.

The company and the San Francisco district also partner with New York University to recruit middle school teachers through a full-year residency for student teachers.

It’s not only tech companies who are donating. Sometimes local businesses or even local sports teams boost STEM education in their cities.

The Phoenix Suns may be trying to rebuild their way back to NBA legitimacy with No. 1 overall draft pick Deandre Ayton and other moves, but they are also partnering with the Arizona Public Service utility company to try to make local students first-round draft picks of tech companies.

STEM teachers throughout Arizona may apply for $2,500 mini-grants through the Suns-APS program, which has donated a total of $500,000 through its existence, according to Payson Roundup. Teachers must bring their innovative programs to the table to be considered. Last year’s projects included a teacher using retinal scanning equipment in an architecture class, and another teacher instructing students how to program robots and utilize sensors to make them autonomous.

In a time of tight budgets for student education, corporate partners have taken steps to help cultivate tomorrow’s workforce.

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