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2U, Netflix Partner With Norfolk State University to Launch Technology Boot Camps

To increase the number of Black students entering the technology workforce, 2U and Netflix has partnered with Norfolk State University (NSU) to launch three online boot camps.

Black employees make up only 7.4% of the high-tech sector compared to 68.5% of White employees. Additionally, at leading Silicon Valley technology firms, Black professionals represent less than 1% of executives, according to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

“If we really hope to increase Black representation in the tech industry, we need to address our current gaps while expanding access to Black students,” said Kabi Gishuru, director of inclusion recruiting programs at Netflix. “This starts with being intentional about building future talent pipelines. These boot camps are just one step in that direction, but we can’t do it alone.”

The 16-week boot camps will focus on the areas of applied data science, advanced Java programming and UX/UI design. NSU faculty and guest technology experts will teach participants industry skills while also applying the curriculum to real world challenges within the sector.

“You may study these kinds of things in school but to have a chance to go through a four-month boot camp where you are basically grappling with some of the same real world challenges that Netflix does,” said David Sutphen, chief strategy and engagement officer at 2U. “That is the other component of this that I think is really useful because like anything else in life, it is one thing to learn something in the abstract and it is another thing to have to learn how to apply that.”

The boot camps will take place live in the evenings beginning in January. Enrollment is currently open to both NSU students and recently graduated alumni. Other qualifications vary among each program.

David SutphenDavid Sutphen

Another aspect of the boot camp is mentorship. Netflix staff will work with students one-on-one to provide them with more industry skills and knowledge. Additionally, advisers from 2U will also assist students by offering networking and career assistance through portfolio and resume reviews as well as interview training.

“I think all of us realize that no matter what you have studied in school, sometimes it is the career navigation elements [that makes a difference],” Sutphen said. “Especially if you are trying to break into a field where there is a profound underrepresentation of the community that you represent.”

Upon completion of the program, undergraduate students will earn undergraduate course credit while both graduate students and alumni will receive graduate course credit.

Additionally, Netflix is offering students scholarship opportunity to help cover the boot camps’ cost.

In predominantly White industries, there is often a “see it, be it dimension” for underrepresented communities, Sutphen said.

“There are so many people who do not think that they can be something unless they see someone that looks like them who has done it,” he added. “I think the more that companies can do to expose the talent and not just at the college level but earlier on, the better.”

To create that earlier exposure to technology, this summer, 2U partnered with Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania to offer online coding camps to high school students. The three-week program introduced students to web development. No skills or knowledge was required in the areas of coding, data, fintech, digital management and UX/UI, 2U reported.

Additionally, through support from nonprofit organizations Girls Who Code and Kevin Durant’s College Track Center in Prince George’s County, Md., financial aid was provided to students of color to be able to attend the program at no cost.

“They had an unbelievable experience because even the young women who had gone through Girls Who Code had not had as much of a kind of a technical coding boot camp experience,” Sutphen said. “I think we are going to see more universities and companies like 2U looking for ways to create this kind of access and opportunity and not just in something like STEM fields.”

Through partnerships across universities, 2U offers over 130 boot camps across eight fields of study and has graduated more than 25,000 individuals. However, this is 2U’s first partnership with a historically Black college and university (HBCU), according to the company.

“Our hope would be if it goes as well as we expect it to, that it is the kind of thing that we could build on,” Sutphen said. “Whether that is with Netflix and other HBCUs. Or just the whole concept of working more closely with companies and universities and creating more avenues and opportunities for folks to get into the tech world.”

Sarah Wood can be reached at [email protected].

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