The T.D. Jakes Foundation, a global nonprofit that focuses on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) education, workforce preparedness and job training to create greater diversity and inclusion, and gender equity, in traditionally underrepresented fields, recently hosted its first roundtable, inviting business and educational leaders to take part in a lively discussion as part of the launch of both the foundation and its in-house think tank.
Hosted in partnership with the Brooklyn STEAM Center, an innovative career and technical training hub for 11th and 12th grade students located in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the roundtable included the foundation’s founder T.D. Jakes and its president and CEO Hattie Hill, as well as educators and representatives from for-profit, technology-focused businesses and educational nonprofits.
“Technology is taking over, and our community is being marginalized,” Chairman Jakes said. “I am convinced that you cannot be what you do not see. I don’t find many young people in our community aspiring to these jobs because they simply don’t see them. Fortunately, many business leaders are looking to be part of the solution—and we want to be the bridge that connects them to communities in need of resources.”
Members of the roundtable spoke about the inherent challenges—such as accessibility and basic awareness—that have long put women and people of color at a disadvantage in securing high-paying, in-demand jobs in industries like technology. They also shared strategies to break through those barriers to prepare these communities for success in the 21st-century workforce.
“The future of work, the way we’re looking at automation and robotics are foreclosed on kids that do not have technology exposure,” said Dr. Nicol Turner Lee, fellow at Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution, and a roundtable participant. “We’re in a middle passage that has people caught between what these new opportunities are and what they’re not. It’s not just about giving students broadband access but also the devices to complete their homework.”
The T.D. Jakes Foundation’s focus on STEAM education and training is designed to level the playing field in science, technology, engineering and math occupations, fields where women and people of color have been historically underrepresented. According to the Pew Research Center, women in computer occupations have declined since 1990, from 32% to 25%. African American and Latino workers represent approximately 29% of the working population but comprise only 16% of the advanced manufacturing and 12% of the engineering workforces.
Since opening the Brooklyn STEAM Center last year, founding Principal Kayon Pryce spoke about his plans for the school, namely a proposed partnership with the City of New York that will help put graduates to work immediately.
“We want to expand our partnerships with Navy Yard businesses to host our scholars after they graduate high school as apprentices or launch our own school-run businesses that could potentially leverage contracts with the City of New York,” Pryce said.
The T.D. Jakes Foundation is dedicated to amplifying and supporting proven programs. To ensure the foundation continues to implement best practices, leaders of the foundation say they plan to continue to meet with members regularly throughout the year. Jakes also invited the group to attend his International Leaders Summit, held at the Charlotte Convention Center, from April 30 to May 2.
“Businesses want to help and partner with the right organizations,” said T.D. Jakes Foundation President and CEO Hattie Hill. “But there seems to be a huge divide between people who want to do good and those who need help. This conversation can move us along quickly.”
About the T.D. Jakes Foundation
The T.D. Jakes Foundation is committed to building bridges to opportunity in the United States and around the world. For 40 years, T.D. Jakes has connected diverse communities across socio-economic divides. With the launch of his eponymous foundation, Chairman Jakes is harnessing decades of resources and connections to prepare people for success in the 21st-century workforce, lift underserved populations and connect corporations to new, highly skilled pools of talent amid increasing global competition. For more information, visit: www.tdjfoundation.org.