HP Inc. has launched its annual Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Business Challenge designed to engage and attract Black students seeking careers in business and technology.
The fourth annual HBCU Business Challenge will be held virtually and focus on “Distance Learning,” asking students for creative problem-solving around the challenges posed by the working and academic worlds shifting to a remote and digital environment.
The HBCU Business Challenge
The challenge provides students with access to executive leaders, real-world business knowledge and, ultimately, an onramp into an industry historically difficult for people of colour to break into.
Furthermore, with one in 10 Americans not being able to find work in a challenging economic environment, this challenge gives students practical experience at a global corporation to help kickstart and grow their careers.
“The HBCU Business Challenge is an integral part of our holistic partnership with the HBCUs, and it embodies our commitment to provide talent with access, knowledge and opportunity. At HP, our long-term goal is to reinvent the standard for diversity, inclusion and belonging and this begins with paving the way for more Black talent to pursue careers in the tech industry,” said Lesley Slaton Brown, chief diversity officer at HP.
“The COVID-19 pandemic and the recent social movements for racial justice have amplified the glaring inequalities in how our country is serving communities of colour. HP’s investment in our relationship with HBCUs dates back several years and stems from our recognition that these disparities are particularly stark in the tech industry.”
“The HP-HBCU Business Challenge is a valuable event for our students to engage in experiential learning and has boosted their industry acumen and likelihood to secure internships and career opportunities,” said Anthony C. Nelson, dean of the School of Business at North Carolina Central University.
“With the volatility of the marketplace being further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is increasingly important for our students to receive opportunities like the one HP is offering to prepare them for an ever-changing global economy better.”
Deepening HBCU partnerships
HP joined the HBCU Business Deans Roundtable as a founding member back in 2017, and on June 1 2018, led a delegation of HBCU Business Deans to the New York Stock Exchange to ring the closing bell in celebration of the conclusion of the annual Roundtable meeting. Over time, HP has deepened its partnership with HBCUs with new areas of joint focus including financial contributions to the HBCUvc’s Student Relief Fund to help students during COVID-19 and connecting HBCU students to HP’s reskilling programmes including HP LIFE and BeChangeMaker.
In March this year, HP launched a pilot learning programme with North Carolina A&T State University, providing HP MultiJet Fusion printing equipment and a commitment for internships and apprenticeships to the university’s College of Engineering and College of Science & Technology.
What pipeline problem?
Government data shows that while about 12% of Americans are Black, African Americans make up only about 7% of the US high-tech workforce and just 3% of the total Silicon Valley workforce. HP’s partnership with HBCUs seeks to dispel the myth of the “pipeline problem” for qualified young Black candidates.
Challenge participation numbers show that the talent is there: over the previous three years, almost 300 students across 44 HBCUs worked in teams to develop business plans tackling real-world challenges, and of them, more than a dozen participants accepted positions with HP in the Boise, Houston and Rio Rancho offices.
Diversity at HP
HP remains committed to driving a culture of diversity and inclusion at all levels of the company and fighting racial inequality in all forms. HP’s Board of Directors continues to be the most diverse of any US technology company, comprised of 42% women and 58% minorities. In 2019, 63% of US hires were from underrepresented groups, and in June this year, HP set a goal of doubling the number of Black and African American executives by 2025.