Today, November 8th, is STEM/STEAM Day – a day originally dedicated to encouraging people to study STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and science) to maintain our economic competitiveness.
At Hopeworks, we have learned that bringing young adults – particularly Black and Brown adults – into the world of STEM is much more than economics – it is about equity and justice.
Hopeworks is a social enterprise that uses technology, healing, and entrepreneurship to transform lives; on average, over 99% of young adults (aged 17-26) entering Hopeworks are unemployed, making less than $400 annually. Young adults completing the Hopeworks program make, on average, over $43,000 annually, with a 90.3% 12-month retention rate in their jobs. That is the Hopeworks difference.
Our unique trauma-informed approach, combined with high-demand, high-wage technical training and paid work experience in Web Design and GIS helps young people not only get the job, but keep it, transforming their lives and the lives of their families.
Technology, though, is about much more than just getting a good job – it is about transforming communities for the future. As Hopeworks’ own Angel Serrano shared in a recent feature, “According to the World Economic Forum, 21 million people in the United States lack connection to high-speed internet. In Philadelphia, 84 percent of households have home high-speed internet connections, but only 71 percent of households whose annual incomes are $20,000 or less subscribe to broadband.” That lack of access and connection isn’t just about streaming Netflix – it is about connecting people to jobs, healthcare, communication, and so much more.
Access to technology and the internet is no longer a luxury, but a necessity. And, without it, those from lower income households, including those experiencing poverty, will lack the tools they would require to break out of cycles of financial hardship.
Just having the wiring is the first step. Individuals need to be able to effectively use the amazing digital tools at their disposal. As Hopeworks’ own Lawrence Burden shared in a recent article, “According to a report from the U.S. Department of Education, only 11 percent of White working-aged adults (aged 16 to 65) are digitally illiterate, compared to 22 percent of Black adults and 35 percent of Hispanics. Additionally, 36 percent of foreign-born adults in the U.S. are digitally illiterate, compared to 13 percent of native-born.”
The digital divide is not a problem of the number of computers or high-speed internet, it’s a problem of fairness and people.
When people have access to education in STEM – and the digital access and tools to use that education – amazing things happen, amazing things that we see every day at Hopeworks. Consider Elvis, who not only was able to get an amazing job in technology but was able to also earn enough money to help his family move away from a war-torn area in Cameroon.
Chris, while celebrating his one-year work anniversary at digital powerhouse Slalom, shared,
“Hopeworks has prepared me for this journey by being an organization that emphasizes the exploration of technology while promoting self-expression. The technical skills that I learned at Hopeworks, as well as a people-first mentality have allowed me to succeed in my current role at Slalom.”
Elvis, Chris, and the stories of hundreds of other young adults who have changed their lives because of access to STEM and connectivity teach us the same story. This year let’s not just tell people to consider STEM careers but also work to give them the access and training they need to use those careers to change their lives and their communities.
It is not about careers, but about equity and justice.
Happy STEM/STEAM Day! Let’s get to work!
With a focus on skill development, real-world job experience, and trauma-informed care, Hopeworks propels young adults into long-term living wage careers that put them on the path for healing and financial stability.