BLOG_STEMAll corporations have an impact on the communities in which they exist. Whether this impact is positive or negative, a company’s local impact extends far beyond simply who they employ or their specific product or service. This local impact is more real (and critical) than ever today, especially for tech sector companies.

As members of a community, tech sector companies (companies who leverage the sciences, technology, engineering and math professions, or STEM), have a vested interest and responsibility to provide STEM encounters in the community we work and live in. Our ability to fill STEM related job fields is at an all time low[1].  While several STEM community studies are now showing us that community STEM growth is a win-win for both the community and the corporations that live in them[ref]. The community gets an infusion of grass roots inspiration, skills and tech-growth-potential, while the company benefits in recruiting attractiveness to seasoned expertise (think tech families), plus they also fortify the technical capacity of their own organic community (think more local technology degree holders). This long-term, organic STEM staffing strategy is often referred to as the Pay It Forward concept — essentially recapturing America’s future STEM job market.

shadowing

Racker showing two middle schoolers
how to roll out code to the cloud.

Ways to Do STEM Outreach

What about the company bottom line? STEM outreach does not need to cost you a dime (outside occasionally buying some pizza). If you do it right, you can event have your HR group create a volunteer program by enacting annual corporate “volunteer hours” or VTO which is considered charitable to Uncle Sam.

teaching

Tweeks teaching rural middle
schoolers to code.

At Rackspace, what “Doing It” looks like varies a lot by office. At our corporate office in San Antonio TX we have tech staff mentoring in FIRST robotics and are leading Cyber Patriot (white hat hacking) competitions.

 

STEM Outreach in Racksburg

At Rackspace Blacksburg, we have various STEM outreach opportunities available to our “Rackers” (Rackspace employees). Let’s Code Blacksburg! (www.letscodeblacksburg.org) is a community coding club started by Rackers that holds free/near-free, monthly community programming workshops in everything from python and C++ to iPhone/Android app development and Arduino/Robotics.

BLOG_lcbb-logo

Young Zach (9), and his first exposure to wiring and coding an arduino microcontroller (2013)

Young Zach (9), and his first exposure to wiring and coding an arduino microcontroller (2013)

Young Grant Martin (12) teaching Java
to community kids and VTech CS Freshmen

 

Our classes are taught by both Rackers as well as by other community members and “groupies” as we call them. In one of our 2014 hands on workshops, a very sharp young man by the name of Grant Martin wrote and taught a packed “Intro to Java” workshop at Rackspace. A feat that took a bit of Racker volunteer mentoring to help him prepare, but one which created a huge impact on the community after hitting the local paper and up to the Associated Press.

Brad Yohe teaching Dev professionals and CS majors about git source code management.

Brad Yohe teaching Dev professionals and
CS majors about git source
code management.

Let’s Code group teaches more than just kids classes, however. We’ve grown it out to also target “General Learners” (community technologists or people just wanting to learn something new) as well as “IT/Dev Professionals” series of workshops. The latter is very valuable to Rackers as it allows our own IT/Dev Pros to connect with other like minded professionals in the community, not only forming professional networks but creating related recruiting conversations when community professionals see us doing such cool things in the community.

Regular Events Based STEM

Other than coding clubs, Racksburg also engages in STEM job shadowing for at risk/rural schools, FIRST/FRC/FLL robotics groups and competitions, local university STEM programs , semi-regular Public Tech Talks as well as inspiring events we do like regional high power rocket launches with famous STEM celebrities.

Summary

Giving your technical staff regular opportunities to connect and share what they do with the community not only creates a happy and healthy workplace, but also makes a name for your company in the community while attracting like minded experts. Something that no recruiting agency can do for you. So get out there and “Just Do It”.

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