On the heels of the federal Juneteenth holiday, tech giants Apple and Google on Thursday is awarding tens of millions in grants to several historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
Apple is awarding $5 million “Innovation Grants” to four HBCUs, the company announced Thursday. Alabama A&M University, Howard University, Morgan State University, and Prairie View A&M University will get the grants, which are part of the company’s broader $100 million Racial Equity and Justice Initiative launched in June 2020.
The three-year grants are part of the iPhone maker’s New Silicon Initiative to help prepare students for careers in hardware technology and silicon chip design. Apple said the grants will support each university’s engineering school as well as help expand emerging hardware technologies coursework and expertise, particularly in computer architecture and silicon engineering.
“The HBCU community is home to incredible Black talent and we are thrilled to work alongside these universities to enhance the opportunities for their students,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social Initiatives in a statement. “We know many jobs of the future will be in innovative areas like silicon engineering and we want to help ensure the leaders of tomorrow have access to transformational learning opportunities.”
The “Innovation Grants” will also include select scholarship and fellowship opportunities, and internships.
“Apple will collaborate closely with our computer engineering faculty to strengthen our course offerings and laboratory capabilities in the areas of integrated circuit design, fabrication, and testing,” said John M. M. Anderson, dean of Howard University’s College of Engineering and Architecture, in a statement. “Additionally, through design projects and internships, our students will have the opportunity to engage with Apple engineers and benefit greatly from their knowledge, experience, and mentorship.”
Howard, Morgan State and Prairie View are also among 10 HBCU’s each receiving a $5 million grant from Google as part of its initiative to “address the diversity gap in tech,” the company announced Thursday. The other seven institutions receiving a one-time unrestricted $5 million grant include Claflin University Clark Atlanta University, Florida A&M University, North Carolina A&T State University, Spelman College, Tuskegee University and Xavier University.
Google Chief Diversity Officer Melonie Parker said in a blog post that the $50 million financial commitment is Google’s largest to date for HBCUs. The money will help support scholarships, invest in technical infrastructure for in-class and remote learning, and develop curriculum and career support programs, Parker said.
“These initiatives are designed to build equity for HBCU computing education, help job seekers find tech roles, and provide opportunities to accelerate their careers,” Parker said. “(These grants) further solidifies our commitment to providing access and opportunities for underrepresented groups in tech. We’ll continue to partner closely with HBCUs to achieve this shared goal.”
Following the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis last summer, prompting global outrage and protests, several big tech companies vowed to support Black and underrepresented communities and diversify their workforce.
The grants by Apple and Google are the latest endeavors by major tech companies investing in programs and higher educational institutions to attract people of color to an industry that’s known for having dismal diversity in its workforce. For example, Black professionals make up only 5% of the tech workforce, 3% of tech executives, and 1% of tech founders, according to a recent report by the Oakland, Calif-based Kapor Center.
In December, Bhaskar Chakravorti, dean of global business at The Fletcher School at Tufts University, wrote in the Harvard Business Review that the tech industry desperately needs a new approach to finding and retaining talent who specialize in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. He’s suggested companies seek out HBCUs and predominately Black cities with emerging tech hubs like Atlanta.
“To truly make the industry more inclusive, tech companies need to let go of their geographic biases and change the way they recruit, organize teams, and allow employees to work,” Chakravorti wrote.
On Thursday, Chakravorti doubled down and told USA TODAY that he hopes the gestures made by Apple and Google motivate other companies to put in money as well.
“That said, they need to do more than put in money. They need to have a systematic strategy to hire the graduates from these programs,” Chakravorti said. He added tech companies need to become “less risk averse” and extend beyond the traditional source cities and “target schools” for recruiting and hiring fresh talent.
Chakravorti said besides Atlanta, other cities to find talent from underrepresented communities include Miami, Washington D.C., Philadelphia and Chicago.
“Putting money to educate under-represented populations is an excellent first step,” Chakravorti continued. “But there are many more steps beyond that to make sure that the graduates of these programs get the same opportunities as their more privileged peers when they are ready to enter the workforce.”
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