Science, technology, engineering, and math — collectively known as STEM — have become the darlings of education in recent years. Politicians, educators, and corporate responsibility arms of large enterprises are encouraging students to pursue these subjects. And they’re backing it with resources.
The companies that SDxCentral covers have an obvious vested interest in fostering these skill sets, as they are skills that will embody future employees, innovations, and products in the software-defined space. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, STEM jobs are expected to grow annually by 8.9 percent to 2024, this is 2.5 percent higher than non-STEM jobs. Many of the companies covered by SDxCentral have donated money, launched kickstarter programs, and dedicated ideas and resources to empowering youth to get involved in STEM.
In fact, just recently Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Salesforce, and Facebook each pledged $50 million to a five-year STEM program started by Ivanka Trump.
We took an in-depth look at programs that are thriving within six companies that SDxCentral covers. We discovered that these companies are going beyond just providing funding to theSTEM space, but also building STEM into their social responsibility statements and making it a prominent part of their corporate agenda.
Amazon’s main STEM program is AWS Educate, which acts as an “academic gateway” for students that will grow up to work in IT and cloud professions. It has resources for institutions, educators, and student. Educators, in particular, can receive access to AWS and open source technologies, as well as training information, and access to other educators in the program. Students, ages 14 and older, can receive credits and training with AWS tech.
For younger kids, Amazon recently debuted a subscription program for STEM toys and games. Each month, the e-commerce giant will send a toy or game that focuses on STEM topics. The idea is that by making this knowledge more hands-on and engaging, more kids will have access to STEM careers in the future. The program serves kids ages 3 to 13.
Cisco’s main corporate social responsibility initiative, the Cisco Networking Academy, turned 20 last year. The program is largely a teaching one. “Cisco engineers developed a program to train the teachers to build, design, and maintain their networks,” said Laura Quintana, vice president of corporate affairs at Cisco. “We realized that technology is only truly powerful when combined with education.”
The Academy provides a number of schools, in the U.S. and globally, with an online learning platform, network simulation software, instructor development, assessment tools, curriculum. Some of its other programs focus on employment opportunities as well as programs that use technology to address social and environmental challenges. It also focuses on increasing the number of young women who join STEM professions.
As technology has changed over the course of 20 years, Cisco has had to evolve its areas of focus to adapt to the careers that will be available in STEM. Most recently, the Academy had to update its content to cover networking, security, IoT, software, and artificial intelligence (AI).
In fiscal year 2017, the networking giant donated — through both Cisco corporate and Cisco Foundation — $355 million cash and in-kind contributions to STEM programs, as well as other initiatives that leverage technology to serve communities and social issues. $274 million of which was for the Cisco Networking Academy. The company said that its involvement in STEM spans across “every demographic,” according to Quintana.
In 2013, Google conducted a study that determined which eight qualities made a good Google employee. In the study STEM skills and expertise came in last. However, Google does have a number of internal programs that are helping educators and students develop technical skills, particularly in computer science and coding, that fit within the realm of STEM. The study found the top three qualities were being a good coach, communicating and listening well, and possessing insights into others (including different values and points of view).
One of Google’s STEM programs, Made with Code, is geared toward mentoring and teaching teenage girls how to code. The Girl Scouts of America partnered with Google on this program. Another Google program is Applied Digital Skills, which offers students free courses that teach the basic digital skills required to get a tech job.
Google also hosts a global competition for students ages 13 to 18. The competition judges projects that use technology to solve local problems.
In 2016, Google.org launched an initiative that gave $50 million to organizations that are using technology to close the global gap in STEM learning and education. This initiative works to provide students in low-income communities with learning resources and materials, provides training resources to teachers, and works to help students living in conflict and crisis maintain their education.
The Intel Foundation, founded in 1988, offers programs that focus on environmental sustainability, diversity, and innovation in technology. But a large portion of the foundation’s energy is focused on supporting education.
The company has a number of programs geared toward STEM. These programs include professional education and teaching programs, technology in the classrooms (including developing technology particular to the needs of classrooms), and sponsorships of a number of events that celebrate math and science achievements.
In addition, Intel and The Intel Foundation have a number of programs that focus on girls and women in STEM and in education. In 2017, Intel and The Intel Foundation donated $1 million to encourage middle school girls to pursue STEM. And one of its largest girls program, She Will Connect, was built to bridge the gap between men and women in terms of access, knowledge, and use of internet and technological resources.
In 2009, Microsoft founded the Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) program, which unites Microsoft-led volunteers from the tech industry with classroom teachers to address the STEM gap. According to Yvonne Thomas, the director of global programs at Microsoft Philanthropies, TEALS has served 37,500 students, a third of which are girls, with 2,360 unique volunteers from 1,000 companies.
“We need young girls to not only get excited about the possibilities of STEM, we also need them to know that careers in technology truly can elicit creativity and allow them to do good in the world – and most importantly – that they do belong in those careers,” said Thomas, adding that Microsoft does “specifically focus on girls in our work.”
The company asks its non-profit partners to provide funding so girls represent 50 percent of the participants in the external programs that Microsoft supports, and it specially supports STEM programs geared toward girls. Examples of this includes Girls Who Code, Black Girls Code, and more.
Verizon recently boosted its STEM engagement when it used its tax break to double its $200 million commitment to STEM. The $400 million in funding, the company says, will support 200 middle school programs by 2020. Via its Verizon Innovation Learning program, it hopes to reach 5 million students with its resources.
The program seeks to digitize schools in America — equipping certain middle school students and teachers with tablets and a two-year data plan. Through this, Verizon starts immersive learning initiatives with non-profits and universities and sets up high school students to find technological solutions to local businesses’ problems. The company also builds interactive labs to give students hands-on access to tech like robotics, 3D printing, and virtual reality. In addition, Verizon recently launched a program and grant for girls in an effort to lure them into STEM careers.