Apple is awarding $5 million “Innovation Grants” to four historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), the company announced Thursday.
Alabama A&M University, Howard University, Morgan State University, and Prairie View A&M University will get the grants, which are part of Apple’s broader $100 million Racial Equity and Justice Initiative, the tech giant launched in June 2020.
The three-year grants are part of the iPhone maker’s New Silicon Initiative to help prepare students for careers in hardware technology and silicon chip design. Apple said the grants will support each university’s engineering school as well as help expand emerging hardware technologies coursework and expertise, particularly in computer architecture and silicon engineering.
“The HBCU community is home to incredible Black talent and we are thrilled to work alongside these universities to enhance the opportunities for their students,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social Initiatives in a statement. “We know many jobs of the future will be in innovative areas like silicon engineering and we want to help ensure the leaders of tomorrow have access to transformational learning opportunities.”
The “Innovation Grants” will also include select scholarship and fellowship opportunities, and internships.
“Apple will collaborate closely with our computer engineering faculty to strengthen our course offerings and laboratory capabilities in the areas of integrated circuit design, fabrication, and testing,” said John M. M. Anderson, dean of Howard University’s College of Engineering and Architecture, in a statement. “Additionally, through design projects and internships, our students will have the opportunity to engage with Apple engineers and benefit greatly from their knowledge, experience, and mentorship.”
Apple’s grants are the latest endeavor by a major tech company investing in programs and higher educational institutions to attract people of color to an industry that’s known for having dismal diversity in its workforce. For example, Black professionals make up only 5% of the tech workforce, 3% of tech executives, and 1% of tech founders, according to a report by tech watchdog, the Kapor Center, released earlier this year.
In December, Bhaskar Chakravorti, dean of global business at The Fletcher School at Tufts University, wrote in the Harvard Business Review that the tech industry desperately needs a new approach to finding and retaining talent who specialize in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. He’s suggested companies seek out HBCUs and predominately Black cities such as Atlanta, which has an emerging tech hub.
“To truly make the industry more inclusive, tech companies need to let go of their geographic biases and change the way they recruit, organize teams, and allow employees to work,” Chakravorti said.
Alabama A&M University President Andrew Hugine, Jr., said in a statement that as a leader in producing minority STEM graduates in Alabama and being among the top three HBCUs nationally with this designation, his institution “is excited about this opportunity to partner with Apple to strengthen our engineering programs and enhance our student pipeline into the workforce.”