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

Published 05-05-08

Submitted by IBM

ARMONK, NY -- (MARKET WIRE) -- 05/05/08 -- IBM (NYSE: IBM) today convened an inaugural summit titled "America'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.

The effort is aimed at a looming problem resulting from the significant decline in the numbers of Hispanic students pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (or STEM). This decline could affect America's competitiveness in the increasingly global market. Demographic data show that 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 dropping out of high school are at a 24 percent rate.

To address the issue, IBM along with ExxonMobil, Lockheed Martin and Univision, and 150 other leaders will meet on May 5 and 6 in New York, to examine the ways the Hispanic community can improve their participation in STEM.

"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."

The magnitude of the nation'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.

"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, Innovation and Technology. "This summit is a call to action to challenge business leaders to address an issue that could undermine the country's leadership in today's global economy."

Participants of this strategic gathering will be presented with newly released reports commissioned by the IBM International Foundation from respected research organizations like The Tomas Rivera Policy Institute and Public Agenda, which outline the challenges and opportunities to the nation's Hispanic community and their partners as regards the pursuit of STEM careers.

Among the key findings of The Public Agenda study, "A Matter of Trust," released today in conjunction with the conference, reveals 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 ten young Hispanic adult households. The reasons identified in the study are:

-- Nearly half of Hispanic parents say it is a serious problem that students are not taught enough math and science.
-- Hispanic parents are more likely to support making sure U.S. standards match those in Europe and Japan.
-- Less than half of Hispanic young adults believe that qualified students can find a way to pay for college.

"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," state 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."

As a means of enabling Spanish-language-only parents to better communicate with teachers -- one of the needs outlined in the Public Agenda study -- IBM is today announcing that it will provide its automatic two-way, English-Spanish, e-mail translation and web translation software called !TraduceloAhora! to all U.S. schools at no cost to them.

Additionally, schools and nonprofit organizations will be given unlimited use of the !TraduceloAhora! 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.

And, according to The Tomas Rivera Policy Institute (TRPI), which also today 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.

The TRPI report, however, noted some signs of optimism: "As the youngest and fastest growing ethnic group in the U.S. today," state 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."

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.

-- Additionally, IBM will expand its cascade mentoring program - currently at the University of Arizona at Tucson - to at least 3 universities in California, New York and Texas.
-- The cascading mentoring program is an internet based system that enables professional mentors, university students, and K-12 students to engage in a three-way mentoring relationship through secure online discussions. These discussions focus on past academic experiences and exploration of what could be in terms of future goals and opportunities.
-- This program completed its third year in Tucson, Arizona and involved IBM employees, the University of Arizona SHPE (Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers) Student Chapter, and students from two high schools.

In addition, IBM is making further commitments aimed at bolstering early education resources with innovative technology tools for the classroom:

-- 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.
-- 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.

Key moderators and facilitators will lead attendees in highly focused work groups designed to encourage dialogue and develop actionable strategies to increase Hispanic participation in STEM-related curriculum. Confirmed moderators include Tom Luce, Chief Executive Officer, National Math and Science Initiative, Inc. (former Assistant Secretary, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development); Irving Wladawsky-Berger, Chairman Emeritus, IBM Academy of Technology and Visiting Professor of Engineering Systems, MIT; Stanley Litow, President of the IBM International Foundation and Vice President, Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs, IBM Corporation; and Adalio Sanchez, Vice President of Corporate Strategy, IBM Corporation.

The issue of skills and the need for America to produce more graduates with degrees in math, science, engineering and technology also will be addressed.

"The shift to a digital economy in the last 10 years requires that young people be prepared to enter the workforce with '21st Century skills,'" said AMD Chairman and CEO Hector Ruiz. "Fostering STEM skills is critically important in developing an adept workforce to fill the jobs of this expanding digital economy."

In keeping with its commitment to the development of STEM professionals for the future, IBM has been in collaboration with over 5,000 premier universities and over 100,000 business partners globally to prepare students with 21st century skills for jobs in the new IT workforce.

In the U.S. alone, IBM has trained faculty at over 3,150 institutions on software skills and over 150 on mainframe skills. Students and future STEM professionals can also access the IBM Academic Initiative which includes an online portal that provides access to FREE software and hardware as well as training and course materials. Also through the web, IBM offers hundreds of resources for integration into college curricula to help teach students how to master the fast-growing market of open technologies. Perhaps most significantly, IBM is working with more than 150 leading universities to promote the global adoption of a new academic discipline, Service Science Management and Engineering (SSME).

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Our diverse and sustained programs support education, workforce development, arts and culture, and communities in need through targeted grants of technology and project funds. To learn more about our work in the context of IBM's broader corporate responsibility efforts, please visit Innovations in Corporate Responsibility.

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