Mentors: Missing Link to Help Prepare Students for the 21st Century Workforce

by Meghan Groome @mpgroome, Ph.D., Senior Vice President, Education, New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS) | 2/28/2017
Technology-driven Society

In the age of the internet and our technology-driven society, there are few, if any, business models that don’t require computer skills in some form. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities for computer and information systems managers are projected to increase 15% from 2014 to 2024, a much faster average than that of other occupations.

And as the U.S. economy increasingly lies on digital platforms, employment opportunities for such jobs as coders, software/app developers and cybersecurity experts will continue to grow. So how then, can the American education system address this demand?

Global mentorship program

Mentoring is one way and this is where Infosys Foundation USA and The New York Academy of Sciences is helping to address a gap. With an initial catalytic grant in 2010, Infosys USA Foundation and other generous donors lit the fuse on an exponentially growing global mentorship program to help students develop computer science skills. Thanks to this support, the Academy has been able to scale our program from 100 scientists visiting classrooms in New York City to 150,000 annually in over 100 countries by 2018.

This crucial intervention is a key element in driving more computer science skills development opportunities, especially for traditionally underrepresented students including women, first generation college students and students from high poverty households. The key to the Academy's mentorship programs are STEM professionals who volunteer their time to teach and mentor the next generation of innovators. While these volunteers give of their time to build skills and buff up their resume, the spirit of giving back drives them to dedicate their time and in great numbers.

When it comes to computer science, “Why do you mentor a budding computer scientist?” we asked our mentors. In almost all cases, something deeply personal appears in their application essays. Instead of encouragement and a cheering section when they considered pursuing computer science degrees, they encountered a steady stream of teachers and peers who told them to opt out instead of stay in. Now they want to reverse that trend. A common refrain in the applications? I wish I had this program when I was in college.

So when we ask “Why do you mentor a budding computer scientist?” the answer is deeply personal and rooted in contributing to the development of the future workforce and the economic growth that is essential to a healthy, vibrant society.

Next Scholars

With support from Infosys Foundation USA, NYAS is offering a specialized version of Next Scholars for undergraduate women studying in the United States with an interest in Computer Science. This three-year, CS-tailored, virtual program will include layered mentorship, 35 hours of online programming, and access to educational resources, career guidance and opportunities, a network of like-minded peers, and mentors.