Google has donated $1 million towards three programs that aim to encourage students in groups historically marginalised in the ICT industry to take up STEM-related careers.
The donations will go to not-for-profit organisations that deliver hands-on training programs to 10,000 under-represented students and will encourage them to take up careers in science, technology, engineering and maths.
The programs focus on female, Indigenous, regional and lower socioeconomic background students.
One of the programs receiving a donation, Engineers Without Borders Australia’s “Regioneering Roadshow”, provides training for students in regional schools with a particular focus on young women.
“We [work in] regions around the country and have volunteers in every state, especially university students,” Engineers Without Borders Australia director of operations Jane Hadjion told iTnews.
“They volunteer to visit regional and remote schools and show how technology can be used to achieve social change. It puts a different perspective on what gets taught in schools.
“We’re putting on 65 workshops in 38 locations over 12 months. We’re reaching 6500 students, 470 teachers and 1400 parents.”
Hadjion said reaching out to young female students was a key focus of the program.
“We have a 41 percent female internship membership, which is significantly higher than the sector, which is down around 11 percent. We’re very proud of that,” Hadjion said.
Victorian Women in ICT Network manager Judy Horman told iTnews she welcomed the funding for the initiative, which aims to attract more women into the ICT sector.
“There needs to be opportunity for girls – whatever programs can be put out there – to make high school students aware of IT as a career and university option," she said.
“Half the battle is not enough girls graduate from STEM courses, and then it’s difficult for companies to hire them.”
Also among the programs receiving grants is the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience, which aims to deliver STEM curriculum to 4000 Indigenous students by 2018.
The grants will also allow FIRST Robotics Australia to push its FIRST LEGO League and FIRST Robotics programs out to 150 additional schools in low socio-economic and regional areas.