Bridging the Digital Access Gap in NYC through Technology and Workforce Readiness Skills
By: A collaboration between Salesforce.org and ScriptEd
ScriptEd and Salesforce: Partners towards a common goal
Founded in 2012, ScriptEd is a computer science education organization providing a rigorous pipeline of support to high school youth attending under-resourced schools in New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area. This pipeline begins with an in-school coding course, followed by opportunities for advanced skill development and paid internships at corporate partners and mentorship after graduation.
With 95% of public high schools in NYC receiving no computer science education and a tech sector in vast demand for diverse talent, ScriptEd aims to address both needs with an industry-relevant spectrum of support. More than ever, bridging the gap between communities with access to technology and those without has become increasingly important. Although digital skills are a critical equalizer in today’s economy, fewer than 10% of New York City public schools offer any form of computer science education and only 1% of students receive it.
ScriptEd works directly to fill this gap. Their student cohorts are typically made up of 75% of students eligible for free/reduced price lunch (81% in the 2016-17 school year), 80% are black/Latinx and 40% are girls.
As part of the Salesforce commitment to equal opportunity and equal access to education, a partnership with ScriptEd was launched in 2017. In addition to funding support, a group of dedicated Salesforce employees started using their yearly benefit of volunteer time off (VTO) to teach an Advanced Computer Science class based on ScriptEd’s curated curriculum. This program brings students into the Salesforce New York City offices on a weekly basis and exposes them to computer programming languages in a real-life corporate environment. This helps prepare students for tech sector internships during the summer after the program, and feeds into a long term goal of propelling them into careers within the technology sector.
With the successful completion of the 2016-2017 cycle, employee champions have signed onto another year of the Advanced Computer Science class. In addition to being a Salesforce.org grantee, ScriptEd has received over 560 hours of volunteering from Salesforce employees. Philip Makings, Senior Director of Solution Engineering at Salesforce, has been the primary lead in this partnership, and shares the following thoughts on his experience:
- “The work that we have done with ScriptEd over the past 18 months has been extremely rewarding for the students we have reached and the Salesforce employees who have contributed. ScriptEd is a tremendously professional and thorough organization – they have developed an excellent curriculum and bring students to the office which makes it easy for employees to dedicate the time and effort needed to make this program a success. I have been working for 16 years, with Salesforce for 3.5, and I have never had the opportunity to make the difference we are making with ScriptEd. We have had a tangible impact in increasing STEM skills in students from low income backgrounds, with a strong female representation. I cannot think of anything more aligned to our company ethos, and am incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to give back.”
Abdoul, a senior at City Polytechnic High School in Brooklyn, described the value of attending the ScriptEd Advanced class at Salesforce each week:
- “ScriptEd has become like a family, rather than just an opportunity to learn to code. The Advanced class has been the best extracurricular activity that I’ve had throughout high school. Being in contact with tech professionals, who are not necessarily like my other teachers, in a tech company environment has given me an insight into my chosen career field. There is a good feeling of growing up within the tech industry, and being around other programmers.”
Putting Tech Skills into Context — ScriptEd at Salesforce World Tour New York
Since careers in technology involve much more than technical skills in coding and computer science, Salesforce also invited ScriptEd students to attend the Salesforce World Tour in New York City on December 14th. Tech conferences are an important building block to the industry, and to have successful careers in tech, students need to gain interpersonal skills and a broader understanding of the industry.
Through their visit to the event, ScriptEd students learned about the Salesforce technology and company culture, completed activities on Trailhead, and attended product demos and a breakout session focused on building skills for software development. The group also met solution engineers and developers who answered the group’s questions pertaining to careers in technology.
Attending tech conferences and networking events such as the Salesforce World Tours can help broaden students’ perspectives on the tech industry, and provide an opportunity to put their skills and computer science courses into context. It is a great way for students to visualize what careers in technology entail, and to help them start thinking about what specific opportunities they may want to pursue within the industry.
Abdoul shared how his experience at the World Tour gave him a broader understanding of potential career opportunities, and a sense of belonging in the Salesforce ecosystem.
- “The Salesforce World Tour was a great experience for a student to have, and it revealed to me more about the world of Salesforce that I don’t get to see in my class. I had read about Salesforce before, but to see how many people use it and how it is used was amazing. The best part of the tour was creating a Trailhead account and messing with the software. Even though we were youngest people at the World Tour, being on thoses laptops put me back in my element. Being someone who at least has a basic knowledge of programming made me feel like I stand out and I had found my place there.”
Lessons for the Tech Sector
An impactful partnership like the one that Salesforce has with grantees such as ScriptEd creates a conduit to access and diversity in the technology industry. Not only do these types of engagements support nonprofits’ missions beyond providing funding, but they also help ensure the health and success of the industry as a whole, by providing a continuous in-flow of diverse talent. Considering the breadth of the technology industry, an opportunity exists for tech companies to partner with tech-education-focused nonprofits on this level.
Combining technical knowledge and 21st century skills with employee participation can help ensure that these types of partnerships are as impactful as possible. Going beyond financial support and contributions, technology companies can fill a mentorship gap by empowering their employees to contribute their skills and time. In the case of Salesforce and ScriptEd, employees act as role models and teachers, and help paint a picture of what a career in technology entails. By leveraging employees’ knowledge, passion, and time, tech companies can ensure that the future of the industry is inclusive, sustainable, and bright.
About the Authors
This blog was a collaboration among:
- Alix Charles, Community Engagement Manager at Salesforce.org
- Alissa May, Manager, Employee Engagement at Salesforce.org
- Esther Nai, Employee Engagement Manager at Salesforce.org
- Jennifer Stredler – Senior Director, Philanthropy & Engagement at Salesforce.org
- Kate Holzman, Director of Corporate Partnerships at ScriptEd
- Ilena Parker, Communications Director at ScriptEd
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