THE BLOG
07/24/2014 12:44 pm ET Updated Sep 23, 2014

Creating a Pipeline for Talented Youth to the Technology Sector

The sound of sirens, hammers and car horns disrupts Raul del-Llano's concentration. He lounges back in his swivel chair and shifts his gaze to the panorama of Times Square that lies beyond his office window.

In just a moment, he re-focuses on the lines of code that populate his computer screen--and the web application he is helping to develop for About.com.

Del-Llano, however, is not your typical About.com employee. He is 19 years old--a teenage intern who just graduated last month from Harlem Village Academy in New York City--and yet is creating code for one of the nation's premier digital publishers.

He is not alone. Take Sumaia Nasrin, 17, who is building an HTML form to track web issues as a part of her summer internship at Contently. Then, there is Kobe Smith who, at 16, is using Parse and Bootstrap to assist in a web development project as an intern for American Express.

The trio represents a larger transformation in the technology sector, an understanding that age no longer precludes professional opportunity. Remember when high school students vied to fill job openings at various summer camps? Now, talented teenagers find themselves in summer internships at companies such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Microsoft.

"The drive for youth is being spurred by more people getting into technology at a younger age... with online coding tutorials and Web communities for collaborating on software, high schoolers don't have to get a computer science degree before producing their own mobile apps," Sarah Frier wrote in a July 8 Bloomberg article.

However, there is also a drive for accessibility in this rapidly developing field. Take ScriptEd, a non-profit organization whose mission statement is to "equip students from under resourced schools with fundamental skills, experiences and relationships to access opportunities in tech." Raul, Sumaia and Kobe--among 100 other students in ScriptEd's network--learned JavaScript, CSS and HTML in computer-science classes taught by professional programmers. They competed in hackathons, participated in tech bootcamps and were given an opportunity, which just two years ago, could never have been possible.

"Only one thing will make a difference [in tech]: a job-training pipeline designed to identify, recruit and train talented people from nontraditional backgrounds and low-opportunity communities," Van Jones, host of Crossfire and founder of Yes We Code, wrote in a July 8 CNN article.

ScriptEd has laid the groundwork, placing 20 of its students in summer internships at 10 organizations that, in addition to the aforementioned three, include: J.P. Morgan Chase, Getty Images, Teach for America, ThoughtWorks, Silverline, Thrillist Media Group and Ghostery.

The "job-training pipeline," however, must extend beyond the internship and also include future-oriented, professional development sessions. These lessons can encompass critical skills such as the crafting of a resume, corporate network and technical portfolio on Github. ScriptEd staff and volunteers host supplementary training sessions at Cornell University Tech's offices in New York City to provide its interns with these tools.

Consider Lilibeth Perez, 18, a ScriptEd intern at Getty Images. She will be the first in her family to attend college this fall (at Stony Brook University)--and was the first to receive her high school diploma. ScriptEd's two years in her classroom, and the career insights she received at Contently as well as Getty Images, helped her get there.

The road to success is only beginning for future tech talents--particularly at ScriptEd. The nonprofit organization plans to expand and service 15 New York City schools this upcoming year. It likewise plans to increase the scope of its 2015 summer internship program, hoping to place 100 students in such opportunities.

The motive for focusing on workforce development is simple. Traci Donnelly, CEO of the Child Center of NY, draws upon several Economic Mobility Corporation studies in a July 21 Harvard Business Review piece to explain how successful employment programs provide key benefits for students. They not only receive invaluable technical skills and professional tools, but also, a steady, consistent mentor to guide them down the pipeline.

Without job-training and career support, the United States Department of Education in a 2013 study revealed that students have a 70 percent chance of remaining below the middle income level as adults.

Imagine a world where that figure no longer exists; where high school students can be just as prepared for professional success as Lilibeth, Raul, Kobe and Sumaia. Imagine a transformed tech sector that truly embraces the concept "opportunity for all."

Raul, one week later, reflected back to that moment of introspection amid the hustle and bustle of Times Square construction; how it's "fun to watch the world change around me on a daily basis."

As he plugs away at his code, the world of computer science is changing as well--and for the better.

Make sure to read our students' WordPress page to learn more about their summer internship experiences; to follow the conversation, use the hashtag #ScriptEdStudentCorner.

To learn more about our organization, feel free to explore http://www.scripted.org

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