Black and Latino students looking for high-demand jobs can gain needed skills and opportunities through new initiatives from Dallas College.
A year into the pandemic and amid an economic crisis, Dallas College aims to help students of color and those from low-income families with scholarships and a virtual career fair that are part of nationwide efforts to help them enter the workforce.
The school was selected as one of four education partners in a new $40 million program by PepsiCo to support Black and Hispanic students through four need-based scholarships in obtaining degrees in high demand fields: cybersecurity, information technology, business and advanced manufacturing and logistics.
The scholarships include mentorships and training from PepsiCo leadership with some students eligible to apply for an internship with the company.
Students have until June to apply for three of the four scholarships through Dallas College’s website. The deadline for the fourth scholarship, titled “PepsiCo Success Matters in Life and Education,” passed for this year.
“It is vital that our mostly minority student body is supported with tools to ensure they graduate with a certificate or degree that will help them in the future,” Pyeper Wilkins, Dallas College vice chancellor of workforce and advancement, said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the community college has joined 37 other institutions in forming the Nationwide Task Force on Higher Education and Opportunity. Baylor University and the University of Texas System round out the state’s representatives.
The task force has three main goals: ensuring student success despite the economic recession, partnering with local communities, and reimagining how higher education is delivered in a post-pandemic world.
Dallas College’s first step is a virtual career fair in May where students connect with employers over blockchain, a technology that allows for secure document transaction and connection, Wilkins said.
Wilkins said the past year has been difficult on students, especially those from communities of color and low-income neighborhoods that have been hit the hardest in the pandemic.
“We know that we as Dallas College have to do something to help them,” she said.
With COVID-19 still making in-person events difficult, the virtual format will give students a direct line to employers, she said. It’s particularly important to connect students to jobs they never envisioned doing because many in the hospitality industry — such as in bars or restaurants — have been cut during the pandemic, making it more challenging for college students to afford tuition, Wilkins said.
“The need to probably connect to other opportunities is going to be important, beyond those typical college jobs that you think about,” Wilkins said.
And the job field may look different for those about to enter the workforce as many in technology may be in higher demand due virtual work being at the forefront, Wilkins said.
Dallas College is one of the few community colleges in the national task force, which includes public and private universities.
Wilkins sees the task force as an opportunity for the institutions to innovate together. No matter how big or small, each school wants to help students recover after a less than stellar 2020, she said.
“They are probably going to learn from us as much as we learn from them,” she said.
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