IBM Launches Effort to Address Shortage of Hispanic Students in Tech Careers

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<p><strong>Armonk, N.Y. &mdash; May 5</strong><br />IBM convened an inaugural summit titled "America&#39;s Competitiveness: Hispanic Participation in Technology Careers," an effort to bring together leaders in business, education, government and community organizations to find ways to increase the number of Hispanic students pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and math in the United States. <br /><br />The effort is aimed at a looming problem resulting from the significant decline in the number of Hispanic students pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (or STEM). This decline could affect America&#39;s competitiveness in the increasingly global market. <br /><br />Demographic data show the Hispanic community is expected to constitute 25 percent of the overall U.S. population by mid-century, making the U.S. home to the largest Hispanic population in the world. Meanwhile, Hispanic students are dropping out of high school at a 24 percent rate. <br /><br />To address the issue, IBM, along with ExxonMobil, Lockheed Martin and Univision, and 150 other leaders met on May 5 and 6 in New York to examine ways the Hispanic community can improve its participation in STEM. <br /><br />"The Hispanic community is one of the fastest growing in the country, and young Latinos are rapidly joining our workforce," said U.S. Senator Robert Menendez. "It is important that they have the option to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math, not only so they can fully develop their potential, but also so they can become professionals in areas that are vital to our economy, our security, our future as a nation. I salute IBM for this important initiative and hope this summit will open up new roads to success for our Hispanic youth." <br /><br />The magnitude of the nation&#39;s STEM career gap is most apparent in the field of engineering where the need for talent is increasing at three times the rate of other professions. This demand is countered by trends that demonstrate few American students are entering STEM-related studies. <br /><br />"IBM is deeply committed to galvanizing the U.S. corporate sector and other stakeholders in addressing the serious shortage of professionals in STEM careers, particularly in the Hispanic community," stated Nicholas M. Donofrio, executive vice president of innovation and technology. "This summit is a call to action to challenge business leaders to address an issue that could undermine the country&#39;s leadership in today&#39;s global economy." <br /><br />Participants of this strategic gathering were presented with newly released reports commissioned by the IBM International Foundation from respected research organizations such as The Tomás Rivera Policy Institute and Public Agenda, which outline the challenges and opportunities to the nation&#39;s Hispanic community and their partners as regards the pursuit of STEM careers. <br /><br />Among the key findings of The Public Agenda study, "A Matter of Trust," released in conjunction with the conference, is a deep-seated anxiety within the Hispanic community about attaining a college education despite it being a requirement for a decent job and middle-class life in nine of 10 young Hispanic adult households. The reasons identified in the study are: </p><p> </p><ul><li>Nearly half of Hispanic parents say it is a serious problem that students are not taught enough math and science.</li><li>Hispanic parents are more likely to support making sure U.S. standards</li><li>match those in Europe and Japan.</li><li>Less than half of Hispanic young adults believe that qualified students can find a way to pay for college.</li></ul> <br />"Education and higher education in particular are even more highly prized and respected among Hispanic parents than among parents in general, despite some erroneous conventional wisdom to the contrary," stated authors Paul Gasbarra and Jean Johnson of the Public Agenda. "Overall, far too many Hispanic families are underserved by public education, and to a significantly greater degree than the general population." <br /><br />As a means of enabling Spanish-language-only parents to better communicate with teachers &mdash; one of the needs outlined in the Public Agenda study &mdash; IBM announced it will provide its automatic two-way, English-Spanish, e-mail translation and Web-translation software called ¡TradúceloAhora! to all U.S. schools at no cost to them. <br /><br />Additionally, schools and nonprofit organizations will be given unlimited use of the ¡TradúceloAhora! software. And Hispanic older adults and those with disabilities can access the free translation software along with other free software called AccessibilityWorks that helps them view web pages in a customized format for easier and more effective reading and navigation on the Web. <br /><br />And, according to The Tomás Rivera Policy Institute (TRPI), which also released the report, "STEM Professions: Opportunities and Challenges for Latinos," the fastest growing ethnic group in the U.S. also suffers from a worse gender gap in STEM careers compared with Asians and African Americans. <br /><br />The TRPI report, however, noted some signs of optimism: "As the youngest and fastest growing ethnic group in the U.S. today," stated the authors, Maria Teresa V. Taningco, Ann Bessie Mathew and Harry Pachon. "Latinos have a unique opportunity to aim high and to strive for STEM careers, given the high demand in these fields." <br /><br />In response to the need to provide mentors for Hispanic students, IBM commits to expanding the MentorPlace program to focus on school districts in the U.S. with a significant number of Hispanic students and matching them with IBM employees who can serve as their online mentors. <br /><br />In addition, IBM is making further commitments aimed at bolstering early education resources with innovative technology tools for the classroom: <br /><br /><ul><li>IBM also will make a donation of 1,000 KidSmart units at early childhood centers in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami and New York, in neighborhoods that support the Hispanic community.</li><li>IBM commits to expanding the Reading Companion grant program, a Web-based voice recognition technology that helps adults and children gain literacy skills, to any school district in the U.S. that is interested, with a special focus on school districts with a significant number of Hispanics. </li></ul>

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