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San Diego tech group targets Black male teens for STEM training

Microsoft’s Man Code program says that only 2.2% of tech professionals are men of color.

SAN DIEGO — A San Diego non-profit says the pandemic has shed light on the disparities that many Black students are facing with technology needs.

Black Tech Link created a new STEM training program that targets teen boys, who are statistically underrepresented in technology fields.

Increasing the candidate pool for STEM jobs starts as early as middle school, so Black Tech Link created a 3-month training program to get African American teen boys in San Diego on that career path.

“If they’re thinking about having Engineering as a major, they won’t feel out of place, and that’s what we really want for them. To feel a sense of belonging. They can do this,” said Elizabeth Cotton, Black Tech Link's Executive Director. 

Cotton says she created the workforce development agency during the pandemic. She recognized that STEM skills would be even more vital in the work-place and she decided to focus on training African American teen boys.

“It’s a rigorous program that we’re going to be putting these students through, but after they complete it, their technical skills and knowledge of coding, of circuitry, of carpentry, will be up there," Cotton said. 

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 500,000 tech jobs will be created by 2029, but Microsoft’s Man Code program says that only 2.2% of tech professionals are men of color. 

Josiah Johnson, one of the 30 students in the program, is a senior at San Diego High School. He says the project he’s working on with Black Tech Link is just what he needed.

“It caught my eye right away. It’s futuristic. You don’t always get to see that you’re going to get to make a touch screen mirror. So, I think that’s really cool. I’m actually excited to start,” Johnson said. 

Students will build Touch Screen Facial Recognition Smart Mirrors from scratch. They’ll also learn the foundation of the Internet of Things (IoT), Raspberry Pi Technology and how it relates to Smart Homes and Smart Cities.

Black Tech Link says that over half of the students they serve don’t own a laptop or computer. So they’ve set a goal to raise $100,000 to equip students with the technology they need to complete the program.

If you’d like to donate, go to Black Tech Link