Harnessing Tech for School to Career Success for Students

Catalyze Challenge winners are leveling the playing field through technology to bring workplace learning into the hands of more young people across the country.

News November 01, 2021
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By the Catalyze Challenge

Students from The Next Step

As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, students, parents, educators, and employers are all examining how education must change to meet the needs of the future. In particular, technological advances have created more career options for students than we could have imagined 20 years ago – and it’s vital they’re equipped with the knowledge and skills to meet these opportunities head on. 

Catalyze Challenge winners are leveling the playing field through technology to bring workplace learning into the hands of more young people across the country.

Real world experience with a paycheck

Building from a successful pilot program, The Next Step is a creative agency of BIPOC high school students from underserved communities across California and New York, working with professional mentors from CodeSpeak Labs, who get real world experience doing web development and social media marketing for mission-driven organizations. 

“We were deep into the pandemic, and students told us that the continued lockdown made them feel like their dreams and goals were on hold. At the same time, they found solace in social media and creating digital art at home. We enable our students to use their passion for art and technology in ways that directly translate into real world experience, impact, and a paycheck.” – Jen Chiou, CodeSpeak Labs Founder.

Students work closely with mentors, including professional graphic designers and web developers. Unlike in traditional school settings, the focus isn’t on achieving a grade, instead prioritizing milestones of a professional workplace and gaining practical, applicable skills that allow students to make a career out of their passions without a college degree.

Tech and data literacy for economic mobility

Hack the Hood uplifts early career youth and communities of color through tech skill-building programs grounded in justice. They also provide career navigation support that ensures economic mobility. Since 2013, Hack the Hood has served over 1,300 learners  of color, ages 16-25 by teaching them web design fundamentals and paying them to build websites for over 450 small business owners across the Bay area. In 2020, Hack the Hood developed its curriculum to increase the technical rigor, to include data science fundamentals, and to ground it in tech justice — using technology to build community-based solutions.They’re excited to use the funds received through the Catalyze Challenge to pilot a one-year community college cohort for learners to obtain a Computer Information Systems Associate of Science degree and/or STEM certification, and land a paid tech career opportunity. Hack the Hood plans to build upon these successes and scale their program to reach even more young people. 

“My goal is to continue the work we’ve begun years ago to help young people find employment and find themselves – we’re in the business of people development. What sets us apart is our vision: we want students of color to see themselves in the tech space.”  – Tiffany Shumate, Hack the Hood Executive Director.

“Computer Science is a powerful tool that allows me to use few resources to make large, positive impact on my community.” – Hack the Hood Learner

Visit the Winners to learn more about all of the winning Round 1 Catalyze Challenge solutions and stay tuned for more to come on Round 2 – applications opening soon!

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Press Release: Catalyze Challenge Awards Over $5 Million to Innovative and Equitable Solutions that Bridge the Gap between Classroom and Career

25 winners from across the country will receive up to $500,000 to drive equity-focused career connected learning models

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