The largest HBCU in Alabama is no novice to adversity. Alabama A&M University and HBCUs at large are some of the most underfunded state universities in the nation, fighting year after year for supplemental grants, scholarships and business partnerships to keep their students competitive in the workforce.
Jobs for the Future, a nonprofit focused on the American workforce and education systems, recently identified a skill and career gap among Black learners and job seekers. In its recent action plan, the organization makes clear its belief that peer mentoring, paid work-based learning, and partnership development are keys to strengthening student success.
“Many education and workplace strategies for Black learners and workers only focus on credential attainment, but this is not enough to solve education and economic disparities,” said JFF Vice President Michael Collins, leader of JFF’s Center for Racial Economic Equity, in a press release. “Black Americans continue to have less systemic access to build and maintain professional social capital.”
AAMU answered the call. Deloitte, Apple, IBM and Google are some of the big-name companies to partner with the school’s STEM field, offering career and skill development training, research opportunities and program funding. As a result, students are leading cutting-edge research and getting hired.
“AAMU is known for pumping out the largest number of diverse minority STEM students, and these companies are recognizing the great work we’re doing and they want to get involved,” said AAMU computer science assistant professor Dr. Ed Pearson.
Google has installed Google residence instructors on campus who are vetted software engineers to help shape school curricula and lead workshops to develop technical skills. The results are positive: Student Taniece Ricketts recently landed a full-time position at Google on their software development side.
In addition to technical workshops, Deloitte leads the way providing students with interview and résumé preparation, guiding them on their journeys into the workforce—not to mention the company’s scholarship and student organization funding, which has helped support AAMU’s computer science club and others.
Apple and IBM are providing AAMU students with hands-on, invaluable research opportunities boosting the hiring value and accessibility of their students. Students in AAMU’s college of engineering are working with Apple to develop computer chip prototypes with guidance from Apple representatives who frequent the campus. IBM’s master’s and doctoral fellowships fund students’ cutting-edge research in cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and data science, to name a few. IBM has granted four AAMU students so far. One student is working on a master’s thesis on virtual reality and its implementation in student education; another is working on digital signatures and strengthening password authentication.
Speaking of education, beginning this semester the Alabama Commission on Higher Education is pumping $2 million into the AAMUTeach program, which aims to boost the development of teachers in STEM-related fields in an effort to diversify the workforce. Students pursuing this will receive scholarships and assistance with job placement.
“We’re thankful for all of our partnerships because they are enabling us to continue our mission here where we like to say, ‘Service is sovereignty,'” said Pearson. “We want to serve our community and make a difference and inspire change in academia through research and get our students into the workforce.”