Grant will help UAB prepare Birmingham students for 21st century workforce

UAB is one of two universities awarded grants by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and Coalition of Urban Serving Universities.

USU.2The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and Coalition of Urban Serving Universities has awarded a grant to the University of Alabama at Birmingham to prepare low-income students for careers in data-related industries. 

UAB and Virginia Commonwealth University are the first cohort of APLU’s Seeding Innovation to Deliver 21st Century Skills project. The $50,000 awards, known as Collaborative Opportunity Grants, support innovative approaches that link preparation for the workforce to an institution’s community engagement.  

The grants support university partnerships with community stakeholders aimed at removing institutional barriers that prevent success for low-income students and preparing them for the 21st century workforce. The one-year project is funded through a grant from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation.

To be eligible for the grants, institutions must partner with nontraditional, non-educational partners, such as employers, nonprofit organizations, technology providers, licensing bodies, labor unions, or local and regional government organizations.  

UAB, the Birmingham Education Foundation and Birmingham Business Alliance will work to establish a student-centered Community Data Collective, positioning UAB students to use data to develop solutions to challenges in their home city. The Collective will help inform UAB’s approach to using project-based learning to embed data literacy across the curriculum, build relationships between faculty and private-sector data scientists, enhance students’ exposure to careers in the data industry, and meet a critical community need.

In the long term, UAB will increase the number of students of color pursuing quality jobs in data-related industries by engaging students in K-12 and workforce programs in the collective alongside UAB students and faculty. Ultimately, the partnership is building a data workforce that reflects the demographics of Birmingham and meets the needs of local employers. 

“Birmingham students are the ones who are best equipped to understand and solve Birmingham’s challenges,” said Emily Wykle, director of External Affairs in UAB’s Office of the President. “The Community Data Collective will position them to work alongside data scientists from the private sector and UAB faculty members to provide analysis that is critical to local decision-makers and to explore high-demand career paths at the same time.”     

VCU will use its grant for an Entrepreneurship Academy, a blended learning environment where students and ecosystem partners learn and work together. Participants will earn digital badges in four learning modules, resulting in an expected 2,000 hours of 21st century skills programming delivered in concert with Richmond’s innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem.

Over the coming year, APLU and USU expect to announce other grants supporting university-community partnerships in two additional cohorts. Together the projects will help create a playbook of effective approaches to university-community partnership to promote student success and workforce preparation.