New Program Preps Minority College Students for Data Sciences Careers

An ambitious new program, the 2021 Data Science for All/Empowerment (DS4A) initiative aims to upskill and prepare jobseekers from underserved communities for data science careers. Developed by Correlation One, a company that specializes in data science and analytics training, hiring and assessment, DS4A/Empowerment will provide free, instructor-led training in data and analytics to train at least 10,000 people from underrepresented communities over the next three years, prioritizing Black, Latinx and LGBTQ+ professionals so they can find jobs in the data sciences field and create a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

In 2019, Correlation One began offering free technical training, professional development and mentorship to aspiring female data professionals. So far, the program has trained more than 400 women, who went on to receive promotions or job offers in the field.

The first DS4A/Empowerment cohort launched in October 2020 with 500 participants, who were selected from 8,500 applicants from 48 states in a resume-blind process. The resulting class is 60 percent Black, 30 percent Latinx and 15 percent LGBTQ+. Admission into the program is free and entry is merit-based.

In February, technology investor SoftBank Group announced its support for the program through its new AI Academy, which supports programs that supplement theoretical training of traditional technical education courses with practical lessons that can be applied to common business needs.

Under the program, participants will get 18 weeks of data and analytics training while working on case studies and projects submitted by SoftBank portfolio companies. Participants will also connect with mentors who will provide professional development and career coaching. At the end of the program, participants from outside the college will earn credit toward a bachelor’s degree in data analytics at the institution, which will reduce their overall tuition and provide a pathway toward a career in data science.

Miami Dade College: A Natural Fit for DS4A

Miami Dade College (MDC) is offering free training and career guidance to qualifying students through the DS4A/Empowerment program. The college serves about 100,000 students every year across several campuses, with close to 90 percent from minority populations. Regardless of major, all MDC students are eligible to complete the assessment to enter DS4A/Empowerment’s pilot cohort of 1,000 participants, which will include 50 Miami students. There are plans to expand the program in Miami significantly in the fall.

According to Antonio Delgado, Dean of engineering, Technology and Design at MDC, Miami Dade College was a natural connection for the program. “We serve minorities. Many of our students are from Latin America and are either immigrants or second-generation immigrants, similar to the population Correlation One and SoftBank want to help,” he says. “The nature of this collaboration is to help provide a pathway for Miami Dade College students to get into the program and for MDC to see the programs Collaboration One put together with instructors from places like Harvard, and for us to give back by connecting the course participants to a pathway toward completing a bachelor’s degree in data analytics at Miami Dade College.” The MDC degree program was just declared to be one of the most affordable bachelor’s degree programs in the nation, according to Bachelors Degree Center, which helps students find bachelors programs best suited to their financial, educational and personal requirements.  

The first program is set to begin on April 17. There are five MDC students who are part of the first cohort, including a recent Latin American immigrant who came to this country with nothing, enrolled in MDC to study data science and software engineering and jumped on this opportunity. “I like to think of it as a ticket to the middle class,” Delgado explains. “Once you get the skills and programs to help build credentials, you can get into higher paying jobs. For the population we serve, it’s really a ticket to change their lives.”