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College Tech Program Trains Latinos for Silicon Valley

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A community college computer-science class made up mostly of Latinos has set its sights on bringing more diversity to the technology industry.

These students at Hartnell College about 70 miles south of Silicon Valley — which has a white collar workforce dominated by white and Asian males – are working on developing apps, doing hackathons and learning additional programming languages outside of class. They’re doing it because they feel they’re the underdogs, according to a story published Sunday by NPR.

“Given the region [the program] is in, it’s majorly farmworkers,” said Elias Ramirez, who is part of CSIT-In-3, a three-year bachelor’s degree track for degrees in computer science and information technology. “So given that, you don’t think that many bright students can come from here.”

The program’s co-founders have been pitching partnership opportunities to Silicon Valley businesses, asking the tech companies to provide internships to CSIT-In-3’s best students. “We’re going to bring a population that’s not fully represented in Silicon Valley right now,” said Joe Welch, one of the co-founders.

In October, USA Today reported that on average, blacks make up just 2 percent of technology workers at seven Silicon Valley companies that released staffing numbers. Three percent are Hispanic.

In the CSIT-In-3 program, 90 percent of the participants are Latino, and nearly half are women, NPR reported.

“If they don’t do anything to change the hiring processes that they’ve historically done, they’ll be very challenged to get those historic trend lines to change at all, whether for women or unrepresented minorities,” Welch said.

It’s been a tough sell, as many companies already have long-standing relationships with schools like University of California, Berkeley and Stanford University. But Pat Patterson of Salesforce, said he thinks it could be a good deal for tech companies in the long run. “If your employees are almost a monoculture, they are going to be building products and taking into accounts the needs of that monoculture,” he said. “So by having more diversity in tech we can actually build better products that serve the need of the wider community.”

So far, one of the 28 CSIT-In-3 students has landed an internship at Apple. Others are getting interviews.