Girls and underrepresented minorities made up a larger proportion of US high school students taking the Advanced Placement exam in computer science this year than ever before, Code.org CEO Hadi Partovi announced in a Medium post on Sunday:
In 2018, a total of 135,992 students took the AP Computer Science exam, a rise of 31% from last year. Female students and underrepresented minorities showed the greatest increases from last year:
- Black or African American students — 7,301 participants, up 44%
- Hispanic or Latino — 20,954 participants, up 41%
- Female students — 38,195 participants, up 39%
- Rural students — 14,184 participants, up 42%
Last year, these figures grew even more rapidly, increasing by 135 percent among girls and 170 percent among underrepresented minorities between 2016 and 2017: a spike Partovi credits to the launch of Code.org’s Computer Science Principles course. According to Code.org a nonprofit organization that focuses on expanding access to computer science, 70 percent of students in CS Principles classrooms say they want to pursue computer science after graduation, so the organization expects these growing numbers of students to translate into more diversity in the tech workforce down the line.
McDonald’s announced last week that it was expanding its education benefits program for employees to both increase the value of the benefit and widen the pool of employees who are eligible for it, USA Today reported on Thursday:
Previously, employees had to be on the job for nine months before having a shot at tuition assistance, but that’s been dropped to 90 days. Plus, the weekly shift minimum was 20 hours and now is 15 hours. The changes will make close to 400,000 U.S. employees eligible, the company said. Now, staffers can get as much as $2,500 a year from the Archways to Opportunity program for a trade school, a community college or a four-year university — up from $700. For managers, the figure jumps from $1,050 per year to $3,000.
Some employees’ family members will also now be eligible for assistance. The changes, which McDonald’s attributed to a tight labor market and the savings it accrued from the recent cut in the corporate tax rate, are funded by a $150 million commitment the fast-food giant is making to the program over the coming five years. Since launching in 2015, the company says, Archways to Opportunity has distributed over $21 million in assistance to around 24,000 people.
The program, which is open to employees of both McDonald’s franchises and company-owned restaurants, is offered in partnership with the online education company Cengage Learning. Amanda Eisenberg goes into more detail about how the expanded program will work at Employee Benefit News:
Taco Bell announced this week that after piloting a program to provide employees at 700 of its restaurants with education benefits in partnership with Guild Education, the fast-food chain is expanding the program to 210,000 employees at its 7,000 locations, including many franchises, Amanda Eisenberg reports at Employee Benefit News:
Through Guild Education’s reduced-cost courses and degree programs, both corporate and hourly Taco Bell workers have access to more than 2,000 classes and programs in their pursuit of undergraduate or graduate degrees, college-level education, a GED, or mastery of English as a second language. Combined with the company’s education benefit of up to $5,250 in tuition assistance, paid upfront, and access to federal financial aid, employees are expected to pay little to nothing for the benefit. …
Two thousand Taco Bell employees enrolled in the nine-month pilot program, and 98% of those employees stayed at the company for more than six months, says Rachel Carlson, CEO and co-founder of Guild Education. “That’s phenomenal, especially in fast casual,” she says, noting the retention rates of workers in the program were 34% higher than those who were not enrolled.
Taco Bell took inspiration for its education benefit from Chipotle, which also partnered with Guild Education to help its employees finish college, and McDonald’s, whose employees can earn high school diplomas through the company’s “Archways to Opportunity” program, a partnership with Cengage Learning.
Starting next semester, students at one California charter school will be going to class every day on the Redwood Shores campus of the enterprise software and cloud services company Oracle, the New York Times’ Natasha Singer reported on Sunday:
Oracle is putting the finishing touches on a $43 million building that will house Design Tech High School, an existing charter school with 550 students. The sleek new school building has a two-story workshop space, called the Design Realization Garage, where students can create product prototypes. It has nooks in the hallways to foster student collaboration. And when the school moves here in early January, Oracle employees will be available to mentor students in skills like business plan development and user-experience design.
Faced with a shortage of talent and a school system that has not been producing enough graduates with the necessary digital skills, Silicon Valley tech companies have been getting ever more involved in primary and secondary education in the US in recent years. Singer has covered that trend for the Times in several other articles this year, looking tech companies’ efforts to ensure that coding is taught in schools, their direct partnerships with middle and high schools to encourage innovation in tech education, and Google’s formidable expansion into education.
Yet Oracle is the first to actually play host to a charter school. Design Tech High School, known as d.tech, will pay Oracle just $1 a year in rent. The school will operate independently and be responsible for its own expenses, have its own school board, and Oracle will not participate in curriculum or hiring decisions. Oracle’s education foundation will offer two-week courses taught by Oracle employees, as well as unpaid internships for d.tech students, but any marketable product ideas the students develop in these classes will be their intellectual property, not Oracle’s. The company will even accommodate the school’s basketball team at its on-campus fitness center.
McDonald’s and Ben & Jerry’s may not have a lot in common in their corporate philosophies, but both companies have recently begun offering their low-skilled employees significant educational opportunities that will help them wherever their career paths may take them.
Eighty percent of employees at Ben & Jerry’s ice cream shops are in their first-ever job. The Vermont-based company is now offering them skills training through an online program called Core Academy, where employees can take one of four courses: Beyond the Job parts 1 and 2, Activism Academy, and Social Equity & Inclusion. These topics jibe with the company’s stated commitment to social responsibility.
“We started thinking about what are our responsibilities to this entry-level workforce,” Collette Hittinger, the ice cream company’s global operations and training manager, told SHRM’s Kathy Gurchiek earlier this month, “and we decided we had plenty of programs about how to run an ice cream store,” but nothing to develop skills that would enhance workplace and customer interactions, such as emotional intelligence. The training opportunity also prepares their workforce, 75 percent of which is aged 18-24, for leadership down the road.
Ben & Jerry’s developed the program in partnership with the local Champlain College and California-based Story of Stuff Project. The coursework draws from Champlain’s MBA programs for its content and project-based structure. Participation in Core Academy is voluntary, but the program has been very well-attended and received. It also allows Ben & Jerry’s to stand out in attracting workers for their minimum-wage service industry jobs.
McDonald’s is offering a more traditional education credential, as participants in its “Archways to Opportunity” program can earn a high school diploma through the fast food titan’s partnership with Cengage Learning. Since the 18-month program launched in 2015, roughly 100 employees have completed it and over 800 are currently enrolled. Amanda Eisenberg at Employee Benefit News has the details on the program, which is designed for adult learners:
The summer job, once a staple of American teenage life, has been on the decline for decades: As the Economist’s Lexington columnist points out, only 43 percent of US teens were working or looking for work last July, compared to a record high of 72 percent in 1978. Lexington finds this decline to be cause for lament:
Some parents may question the value of manual work in an age of high-tech change. But an elite education counts for little without self-discipline and resilience. Drudgery can teach humility: when hauling boxes, a brain full of algebra matters less than a teen’s muscles. At best, it can breach the social barriers that harm democracy. Summer jobs are called all-American for a reason.
So what’s to blame for the demise of this American tradition? Some say teens are being crowded out by older people working past the traditional retirement age, or by immigrants. Others say increases in the minimum wage discourage employers from hiring teenagers when they can attract more qualified college students or adults for entry-level jobs. All of these factors may have something to do with it.
On the other side of the equation, teenagers aren’t blowing off work to spend all summer lounging around; instead, they’re spending their time on other pursuits, Bloomberg’s Ben Steverman noted last month: