In Detroit, Ivanka Trump promotes computer learning

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News
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Detroit — Surrounded by tech leaders from across the nation, Ivanka Trump came to the city on Tuesday to help spearhead a discussion on a combined $500 million public and private-sector investment aimed at promoting nationwide access to high-quality K-12 education programs on coding and computer science.

Trump’s arrival in the Motor City came on the heels of the Internet Association’s own announcement of a $300 million private commitment dedicated to K-12 computer science programs across the United States and will include funding for computer science training for 15,000 students in Detroit.

On Monday, a presidential directive was issued committing the U.S. Department of Education to spend a minimum of $200 million in grant funding to expand STEM and computer science education.

Trump, the first daughter and a presidential adviser, came to Detroit to talk about both initiatives which come at a time when — according to — less than half of schools in the U.S. offer computer science courses, yet 90 percent of parents want them in their schools.

“It is great to be in Detroit with so many tech industry leaders to help raise awareness about the importance of coding and computer science education,” Trump said. “The administration is committed to training Americans for the jobs of the future and today’s event and yesterday’s presidential memorandum were major milestones in those efforts.”

Internet Association’s CEO Michael Beckerman said the private investment will be funded by member companies and other businesses and individuals over five years. Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Salesforce will each commit $50 million.

Other promised money is $25 million from Lockheed Martin, $10 million from Accenture, $10 million from General Motors Co. and $10 million from Pluralsight.

Spread over the next five years, the private investment is designed to expand the computer science education pipeline and close the skills gap for computing jobs in today’s economy, officials said.

According to, a nonprofit in computer science, there are more than 500,000 open computing jobs in sectors as diverse as agriculture and banking, but only 50,000 computer science graduates each year.

“Whether a student wishes to become a lawyer, a nurse, a scientist or a coder, a background in computer science will provide a critical foundation for the future,” CEO Hadi Partovi said. “Today’s announcement wouldn’t be possible without the passionate work of hundreds of thousands of teachers in the past four years. Their local support in classrooms has powered an international movement to modernize education.”

Trump appearing on stage with Quicken Loans Chairman Dan Gilbert; Partovi; Rob Acker, CEO of and Marillyn Hewson, chairwoman, president and CEO at Lockheed Martin – said the goal of the president’s investment is to equip students with the skills they need to land one of the thousands of jobs available in the computing field that many employers are unable to fill, due to the lack of trained workers.

The event, set up as a fireside chat on stage with about 75 attendees, took place inside Detroit Design 136, an open exhibit space inside Gilbert’s Bedrock property at 1001 Woodward.

The panel was organized and moderated by the Beckerman, who asked Trump how she came to be a part of the conversation on computer science in schools.

“Computer science and coding are priorities for the administration as we think about pathways to jobs and alignment of education to in-demand jobs in the modern economy,” Trump said.

“I’ve spent a lot of time on the growth of economy and job growth. Part of that is jobs unfilled today and jobs of the future and the skills sets necessary to enable the next gen to thrive,” she said.

A senior administration official said the administration will defer to local leadership to decide the best way to teach computer science and STEM, and to show the Department of Education which programs they want to expand.

Trump said the money from the administration will be dolled out in grants with a priority on racial and gender diversity.

“We are looking forward to seeing innovation across the states as they apply for grants. We do have a major diversity problem in the tech industry. We need to come together to solve for that.”

Partovi, a panelist on Tuesday, said schools across America are not equal.

“A student’s chance to study shouldn’t be about the neighborhood they grew up or the color of her skin. All private sector companies helped fund this movement. ... Americans expect tech industry to address these things and today they are putting their money where their mouth is,” Partovi said.

Private individuals and foundations will commit $3 million to nonprofits focused on computer science education, a news release says.

Detroit-based Quicken Loans will commit the money “required to ensure more than 15,000 Detroit Public Schools students receive the computer science training they deserve.” The news release did not disclose the amount.

Gilbert said on Tuesday that his company has many program with the district but this one “guaranteed that 15,000 kids got what they needed on the technology computer front in the school within the next four to five years.”

Gilbert said companies, including his, cannot grow unless they have the trained workers they need. “There is nothing more important that training people for technology jobs in America,” he said.

Intuit and Internet Association are also providing a significant contribution, Internet Association officials said.

“It’s important to be in Detroit. We are really emphasize these jobs are outside Silicon Valley and anybody and any community should be involved in this,” Beckerman said. “It’s perfect here.”

Hewson, whose company is investing $25 million, said students need to be encouraged at a younger age to go into STEM careers.

Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor building NASA’s Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, the only spacecraft designed for long-duration, human-rated deep space exploration, according to the company’s website.

The Exploration Mission-1 Orion spacecraft, scheduled to fly in 2019, is undergoing assembly and tests at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

“It has a million lines of code,” Hewson said of the spacecraft. “It means we need computer scientists to help with navigation and what we are doing on life support for astronauts. All the elements of taking men and women into space and someday Mars ... Those who are going to Mars are in school today.”

“We need a pipeline of students coming into those careers,” she said.

Michigan education officials welcomed the investment, saying it aligns its plan to be a top 10 state in education in 10 years and with the Michigan Career Pathways Alliance proposals unveiled in June. The state operates about 193 programs in computer programming and science and another 129 in STEM-related areas, official said.

“Such a generous public-private investment is critically important to further underscoring Michigan’s emphasis on STEM programs to help make multiple pathways available to students so they are college- and career-ready,” state education spokesman Bill DiSessa said.

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