Intel pilots $5 million 'scholars' program in Oakland, Calif. schools

Intel will invest $5 million over the next five years in a new pilot program to teach computer science to high school students in the Oakland Unified School District.

If successful, the program could become a national model for technology companies to groom the next generation of computer scientists, creating a new pathway for underrepresented minorities and women into the technology industry, Brian Krzanich told USA TODAY in an exclusive interview this week.

The goal of the program will be to send 600 high school graduates to college to study computer science engineering in preparation for jobs with Intel or other companies.

“We knew we wanted to do something in K-12 education that targeted underrepresented minorities and we thought we should start in our own backyard,” Krzanich said.


Intel will help develop curriculum, train teachers, provide computers and Internet access as well as tutoring to students at two high schools: Oakland Technical School and McClymonds High School.

Then it will invest in students from the program who go on to college to study computer science or engineering, said Intel’s chief diversity officer Rosalind Hudnell. Those students will become Intel “scholars,” and will receive scholarships and internships with a job at Intel waiting for them after graduation, she said.

“We want parents to know: if you encourage kids going into this field, there is a job waiting for them,” Hudnell said.

Intel is targeting a troubled school district in a city that has seen some spillover from the technology boom in Silicon Valley but is still plagued by poverty and violence.

Seventy-one percent of children in the school district are in the reduced cost or free lunch program. To qualify for free lunch, a family of our has to have an annual income of $31,000 or less.

From 2002 through the end of 2012, 787 African American boys and men were victims of homicide in Oakland, nearly matching the number who graduated from Oakland high schools ready to attend a state university, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The school district is 65% African American and Hispanic.

“We look forward to really creating a national model right here in Oakland that shows how to build 21st century pathways to help students from all backgrounds excel in their careers, particularly careers in computer science and engineering,” said Antwan Wilson, superintendent of the Oakland Unified School District.

“That’s what I am excited about,” Wilson added. “Our kids are going to get the opportunity to have a shot at that.”

The announcement was one of two that Intel made on Wednesday aimed at giving women and underrepresented minorities greater access to the technology industry.


The Silicon Valley chipmaker also plans to sprinkle some economic goodwill by increasing its spending with women and minority owned suppliers more than sixfold to $1 billion a year by 2020. Currently the company spends $150 million with diverse suppliers, Intel said.

“We are not fully represented on the supplier side yet because the technology and level of complexity of our supplier base is high,” Krzanich said earlier this week. “Some of these suppliers won’t be ready. They won’t have the right education or capabilities. We will lift those suppliers up.”

Krzanich officially unveiled the initiatives at the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s PUSH Tech 2020 Summit in San Francisco where Krzanich was a keynote speaker.

The initiatives are part of a broader campaign to change the demographics of the workforce at Intel and in the tech industry.

Krzanich says Intel is making progress in reaching the ambitious goal he set in January to have Intel’s U.S. workforce reflect the available talent pool of women and underrepresented minorities by 2020.

So far 41% of the people Intel has hired this year have been women or underrepresented minorities, up from 32% last year, he said. In addition, 17% of hires at the senior levels were underrepresented minorities and 33% were women, up from 6% and 19% in 2014 respectively.

Intel has tied Intel executives’ compensation to their success in reaching the company’s diversity goals.

Krzanich says he’s hopeful Intel’s diversity campaign will expand the talent pool of blacks, Hispanics and women in the tech industry to the point that Intel has to chase “a number that is getting higher and higher.”

“We are not just trying to hit those numbers,” he said. “We are trying to raise those numbers.”

Intel, like other major technology companies, is wrestling with the lack of diversity in its own ranks and in the industry at large.

Intel has been publicly releasing the demographics of its work force for years. In fact, it was one of the first to do so. Yet its demographics aren’t much better than those of younger companies such as Google and Facebook. The company’s U.S. workforce is 24% female, 8% Hispanic and 3.5% black.

Krzanich took a leading role in the push for more diversity in the tech field during his keynote address in January at the International Computer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. During the keynote, he pledged $300 million over five years to diversity initiatives.

Krzanich says he has not yet mapped out where all the money will go but that Intel has a long tradition of setting aggressive goals and then figuring out how to achieve them.

“We don’t always know how to do it when we set a goal and we set a timeline,” he said. “But we get it done. We are taking this same approach with diversity.”


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