Nokia launches online tech scholarship for under-represented talent

by Emma

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Nokia has partnered with online course provider Udacity and the Blacks in Technology Foundation to provide free online courses designed to increase the number of people from under-represented backgrounds in the tech sector worldwide.

Covering subjects such as cloud computing, programming, artificial intelligence (AI) and data science, 302 scholarships will be available for flexible online tech training aimed largely at increasing representation in the tech sector through education and training.

Dennis Schultz, executive director at the Blacks in Technology Foundation, said: “Education is one of the most important ways for us to help remove the barriers to diversity in tech. By providing access to resources that are designed to nurture and develop people’s skills, we can help get more Black talent into the technology space.

“We are pleased to see major industry players like Nokia stepping up to the plate with Udacity and addressing the issue head-on in order to drive forward digital transformation and improve much-needed Black representation in tech.”

There is currently a lack of diversity in the technology sector which varies depending on country – in the UK women account for 17% of IT specialists, around 8% of IT specialists are of Indian ethnicity, 2% from a Black, African, Caribbean or Black British background, and 2% from Pakistani or Bangladeshi backgrounds.

The state of diversity in the US tech sector is much the same, with research from USA Today into US government data finding Black people only make up 3% of employees in the top 75 tech companies in Silicon Valley.

Those who take part in the Nokia scholarship will be able to study topics such as intermediate Python, Cloud DevOps Engineering and Java Programming at introductory and advanced levels, and at the end of the course will receive an Udacity “nanodegree”, which is a recognised qualification in the tech sector.

The courses are fully online and flexible, can be completed by anyone regardless of their current role, and are aimed at either students or those looking to change or re-enter a career. Participants will also receive support from the Blacks in Technology Foundation through networking, mentorship and help finding roles after the courses are complete.

The Udacity platform allows access to 24-hour support from mentors, with part of the learning materials made up of real-world projects provided by experts in the tech sector.

While questions asked to those enrolling on the course are aimed primarily at those from the US, the courses are online and therefore accessible from anywhere, and anyone who fits the criteria can apply.

In many cases a leaky pipeline is blamed for the lack of diversity in technology, whereby those from underrepresented groups lose interest in or leave tech due to stereotypes surrounding the sector or a lack of inclusion.

Skills mismatches are often also cited by companies as a reason for the tech skills gap, with companies often saying graduates are not leaving schools and universities with the skills they need to join the tech workforce – some believing solving the tech skills gap and closing the diversity gap in tech may go hand-in-hand.

Diverse businesses perform better

As pointed out by Karoliina Loikkanen, global head of sustainability at Nokia, “diverse businesses are shown to perform better”, partially because those creating the technology are as diverse as those buying the technology. Those who complete the scholarship will be encouraged to apply for roles at Nokia.

In the past, graduates from Udacity have gone on to work in roles at companies such as Facebook, Google and IBM.

Applications for the course are now open online until 27 September 2021.

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