The Governor’s Task Force on Higher Education has stated that New Jersey will need to fill 269,000 STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) jobs by 2018. Cognizant Technology Solutions, a Citizen Schools partner, is helping alleviate this current STEM crisis through their employee volunteering program. This semester three Cognizant employees, Meeghan Salcedo, Siva Krishna Titti, and Shivani Mehta, will be leading Citizen Schools New Jersey’s coding apprenticeships at Chancellor Avenue Elementary School and Eagle Academy for Young Men with the hopes to inspire a next generation of STEM professionals in New Jersey. How do you think coding will benefit the students at Eagle Academy and Chancellor Avenue?
Meeghan: STEM studies are extremely important. This coding apprenticeship will not only teach the students how to code and what careers they can pursue in this field, but it will also broaden students’ horizons and expose them to a field not traditionally taught in [middle] school.
Siva: Coding will definitely benefit the students. Technology is evolving every day, so it is good to have coding skills to contribute towards the next revolution in technology. Also, for me coding is fun; kids will enjoy the classes.
How is Cognizant's partnership with Citizen Schools helping build a strong workforce in the STEM industry?
Shivani: I believe that Cognizant's partnership with Citizen Schools is great for both. People from Cognizant, like myself, who want to contribute to their communities by sharing their knowledge, are now able to volunteer through the encouragement of our company, which is a valuable and fulfilling combination. Citizen Schools’ students are now being exposed to employees in the STEM industry which can help guide them with their skills as well as understanding what it means to work in the STEM industry. I hope that the students are being encouraged to achieve their dreams and goals by not only Cognizant volunteers, but all volunteers.
Meeghan: Cognizant’s partnership with Citizen Schools definitely helps lay the foundation for a strong STEM workforce. It is so vital to furthering technology that we encourage these studies at an early age. As a Cognizant associate, it is incredibly rewarding to help facilitate that.
Siva: Cognizant is one of the leading technology consulting organizations. With highly qualified and experienced workforce, we deliver innovative solutions to our customers across industries. When we teach at Citizen Schools we bring our experiences to the classes. This gives a realistic view of the industry to the kids, thus helping them understand the subject while relating to the real world.
During last semester’s Solar Cars apprenticeship, what changes did you see in your students in terms of skill development and/or confidence?
Shivani: In the beginning of the apprenticeship, we understood that the kids were bored with just listening to lectures and completing handouts, and they had a lot of energy throughout the hour and half classes. Because of this, we were able to engage them physically with games and smaller groups. This showed a great change in their confidence because each of us were then able to interact with the students one-on-one. By discussing with them their ideas and opinions, along with their questions and concerns, we were able to tackle challenges the students faced through discussions. Their confidence seemed to have increased towards the end of the apprenticeship. They were excited to learn as well as share with the class what they learned and even teach the rest of us by sharing their ideas. Their technical and innovation skills such as designing and prototyping the solar cars had improved with the aid of the "design process". This means there was a lot of iteration where the students designed, built, and adjusted based on the learning in class. We emphasized to them that failing is good because it
means they can learn from it and create or make something better over time and it definitely showed at the end of the semester. They also developed communication skills through the different activities and games we incorporated.
Over 130 Cognizant employees have volunteered in New Jersey since 2010. We thank all of the Cognizant Citizen Teachers for championing our students, our communities, and our program!
To learn more about Citizen Schools’ apprenticeships, please contact Ashley Drew, Civic Engagement and Operations Associate, at firstname.lastname@example.org