Microsoft’s Youthspark initiative aims to close the education gap in New York City

Sean Dudley
Sean Dudley
By Sean Dudley on 14 April 2014
Microsoft’s Youthspark initiative aims to close the education gap in New York City

The recent YouthSpark Connections event in New York brought together local business, education and government leaders to discuss a problematic ‘education gap’ that is affecting the next generation of the workforce in the city.

According to data from Brookings, 71% of job openings in the New York City metro area require a bachelor’s degree or higher. However, only 35% of the population has the necessary qualifications, creating one of the biggest ‘education gaps’ in the US.

“Statistics are so bad that people think there is nothing we can do,” said Wes Moore, an author, businessman, and host of ‘Beyond Belief’ television show, who spoke at the event. “Statistics add context, but human stories motivate action. Today’s youth in many respects do not have long-term goals. They react with short-term motivations, and that usually doesn’t work out well.  Life is much the same way. You can‘t hit a target without a direction, a goal. If they don’t see it, they’re not reaching it.”

YouthSpark is Microsoft’s commitment to empower young people through technology and provide opportunities in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. A particular focus of the YouthSpark initiative is helping people develop skills in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) sectors.

Kathryn Wylde, president and CEO of the Partnership for NYC, spoke at the event and said that the educational community needs a different structure to support employers and students.

Sanoma Joe Tait of Inwood Early College for Health and Information Technologies said: “It’s important we say to young people that you need to be exposed to lots of options. Helping young people, and especially young people of colour and young female students, is important so that they understand that those STEM opportunities are available, and that technology is a much more available pursuit than perhaps they are led to believe.”

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