Studies have revealed the lack of diversity in STEM stunts innovation within the industry; however, despite these findings, racial and gender representation within the space has remained stagnant. A new initiative has been created by the Los Angeles Board of Water and Power Commissioners to open pathways for Black scholars in engineering.
The agency has inked a five-year, $5 million partnership with the nonprofit Advancing Minorities’ Interest in Engineering. The organization bridges corporate, government, academic and community entities to develop impactful initiatives centered on diversifying the engineering workforce.
Through the collaborative project, AMIE will team up with engineering schools at historically Black colleges and universities throughout the country to conduct research projects for the LADWP to align students with career development opportunities and strengthen the agency’s connection to HBCUs. Scholars will explore topics that include the effectiveness of microgrids and energy storage systems and stormwater management. They will also measure the economic impact of the LADWP’s energy-efficient programs.
Some of the participating institutions are Alabama A&M University, Hampton University, Florida A&M University, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Howard University, North Carolina A&T State University, Jackson State University, Tuskegee University and Morgan State University. Other schools include Norfolk State University, Prairie View A&M University, Southern University, Tennessee State University, Tuskegee University, Virginia State University and the University of the District of Columbia.
Cynthia McClain-Hill, who serves as President of the Board of Water and Power Commission, says she believes the partnership will be instrumental in cultivating opportunities for individuals from underrepresented groups and advancing inclusivity at the LADWP.
“LADWP has incredibly challenging goals ahead of us, and guaranteeing that we have consistent access to high-quality scientific research is an essential part of staying on target,” she shared in a statement. “I am thrilled that the Department has chosen to align with AMIE and these nationally recognized research institutions that also have a strong tradition of empowering African Americans who were historically excluded from higher education opportunities. As LADWP looks to become a more inclusive organization, this is a significant partnership.”
AMIE Executive Director Veronica L. Nelson added the partnership “recognizes the significant value and impact of collaborating with the HBCU Schools of Engineering” and “will help address LADWP’s business needs as well as their goal to continue to develop a diverse workforce.”
Several projects have been launched to address underrepresentation in the realm of STEM. Spelman College teamed up with the nonprofit SMASH to create an immersive computer science-focused program for youth. Initiatives that focus on diversity are needed as African Americans make up 9 percent of the STEM workforce.