Alabama Nonprofit Joins Push to Diversify the Tech Field

The Economic Development Partnership of Alabama is providing tech internships for seven students from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the state.
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Published on February 20, 2024
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  • The HBCU Innovation Internship Program is an Alabama-based initiative putting seven students from historically Black colleges and universities through a 12-week program at six tech companies.
  • Black workers make up about 9% of the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) workforce, according to a 2021 Pew Research study
  • HBCUs produce 40% of all Black engineers and 27% of Black STEM undergraduates, according to a research group at Brown University.

An Alabama nonprofit is working to diversify tech through a new internship program for students from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the state.

The Economic Development Partnership of Alabama (EDPA) announced Feb. 7 that seven HBCU students began the 12-week HBCU Innovation Internship Program in January. The program aims to diversify the tech pipeline and create tech field opportunities for underserved populations.

EDPA is a nonprofit organization that supports Alabama's economic growth through research, workforce development, innovation and entrepreneurship, and more. The program partners with the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and Innovate Alabama, a public-private partnership focused on entrepreneurship, technology, and innovation.

"As we launch the HBCU Innovation Internship Program, we are not only addressing the critical need for diverse talent in the tech sector, but we are also fostering a supportive environment for the career development of young Black professionals," Miller Girvin, executive vice president of innovation and talent at EDPA, said in a statement.

"By providing hands-on internship experiences at innovative Alabama companies, we are sowing the seeds for a more inclusive and dynamic future. We are excited to witness the positive impact that these talented students will undoubtedly bring to the tech industry and beyond."

EDPA hopes these internships will inspire students to stay in the startup and innovative career fields in Alabama.

Partner HBCUs in the internship program include:

  • Alabama Agricultural & Mechanical University
  • Miles College
  • Shelton State Community College
  • Tuskegee University

Partner companies in the program include:

  • Techstars EnergyTech Accelerator
  • Prosper HealthTech Accelerator
  • Innovation Depot
  • HudsonAlpha AgTech Accelerator
  • Immediate
  • Decatur-Morgan County E-Center

HBCUs Help Diversify the STEM Field

BestColleges previously reported on a study that found Black students at HBCUs are 100% more likely to choose and finish science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) majors than non-HBCU attendees.

The Annenberg Institute at Brown University study said HBCUs produce 40% of all Black engineers and 27% of Black STEM undergraduates.

However, as of 2021, Black engineers make up only 5% of the field, unchanged since 2009.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, STEM jobs will outpace other industries from 2021-2031. However, workers who identify as Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) are underrepresented. Black workers, for example, make up only 9% of the STEM workforce, according to a 2021 Pew Research Center analysis.

Some HBCU programs that aim to retain, train, recruit, and graduate students in the STEM field include:

  • Spelman College's free six-week Women in STEM Summer Bridge Accelerator
  • Howard University's Howard West program and the Karsh STEM Scholars Program, which aim to increase the number of minorities earning a Ph.D. or MD/Ph.D.
  • Alabama State University's S-STEM program, which helps to improve STEM major retention for underserved students, and Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program for student research
  • Prairie View A&M's Cultivating Undergraduates for STEM Ph.D.s, which provides scholarships, training, and mentorships.

With the U.S. Supreme Court striking down race-conscious admissions and the rise of anti-diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) state laws, race-based scholarships are in danger.

Some colleges, like the University of Missouri, eliminated race and ethnicity as scholarship qualifiers. The University of Texas at Austin eliminated a program and scholarship for undocumented students after the state of Texas implemented its new anti-DEI law.

Race-conscious programs like EDPA's HBCU Innovation Internship Program are unaffected since they are run by private organizations, not colleges or universities.