Computer hardware company HP has announced an inaugural technology conference for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) with support from Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Intel, and Microsoft.
The conference will take place virtually and will promote learning, networking, and “lasting connections to inspire digital transformation and accelerate digital equity.” HP has partnered with HBCUs of different sizes and from various states in the US to “obtain their strategic guidance in order to create an inclusive and impactful experience for HBCU students, IT staff, and faculty/administration.”
A key part of the conference will be upskilling HBCU students with the required tech skills to prosper in the future. This includes a “Future of Work Academy” which will help students gain emerging tech skills in automation and machine learning. This stream will also help “demonstrate how students with different academic backgrounds can build meaningful careers in tech.” Students will be able to participate in a “Bot A Thon” where selected finalists will have the opportunity to interview for internship positions at HP and Microsoft next year.
Students can also access online learning programmes such as “HP LIFE” and the “Microsoft Learn and Future of Work Academy Cloud Skills Challenge” to continue building their skills after the conference.
The conference is part of HP’s long-term strategy to become “the world’s most sustainable and just technology company” by empowering HBCUs to meet 21st-century student needs as COVID-19 has meant that organisations, including HBCUs, must pivot to virtual operations to ensure continued innovation. This is especially important For HBCUs, which are “engines of social mobility for many Black and African Americans” where “forming the right partnerships to accelerate digital transformation is key to being successful in this new world.”
The conference’s focus on helping students build digital literacy is aligned with HP’s goal to “accelerate digital equity for 150 million people by 2030.”
HP’s commitment to upskilling and supporting the career progression of HBCU students in the tech sector is further evidenced via its role in the “HBCU Business Deans Roundtable”, where it joined as a founding member in 2017. Since then, HP has partnered with HBCUs to launch the annual “HP-HBCU Business Challenge” which provides HBCU students with “access to executive leaders, real-world business knowledge, and, ultimately, career opportunities in tech.”
Now in its fifth year, this year’s theme is immersive technologies, and students are asked to use virtual reality technology to create a new service or solution. Since the challenge started, more than 380 students across 46 HBCUs have participated, and select finalists later became interns or full-time employees at HP.
HP also launched a 3D printing learning pilot programme at North Carolina A&T State University last year. To drive a more diverse pipeline in cybersecurity, HP partnered with Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU) and presented the school with an endowment to establish the “HP Cybersecurity Scholarship”. The scholarship will be awarded each year to a student pursuing a degree in Computer Science with a concentration in Cybersecurity.
Earlier this year, HP joined the “HBCU Partnership Challenge” to further strengthen its relationship and programming offerings with HBCUs.
Lesley Slaton Brown, Chief Diversity Officer at HP Inc said: “The diverse talent that HBCUs foster are integral to driving innovation not just in the tech industry but across all sectors. Diversity is a business imperative; when we attract and nurture people from diverse backgrounds and increase their representation in the workplace, we can strengthen the company’s long-term growth. We look forward to building on our existing partnerships with HBCUs to raise the bar and put together this one-of-a-kind initiative that can help build a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive society where HBCU students have equal access to opportunity and their institutions are armed with the knowledge needed to unlock transformational growth.”
The conference will be broken down into five half-day virtual sessions that will be held on September 14, 16, 22, 28, and 30. All HBCUs can attend for free.