September 18, 2017

The City of San Francisco brought in FUSE Fellow Nicola Clifford to help establish school-to-workforce science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) pipelines for the city of San Francisco, bringing together public, private and nonprofit partners. The outcome: The launch of the STEM Talent Pathway, a collective impact initiative involving private corporations, city government, local universities and the school system that strengthens pathways through formation of cross-sector partnerships, with a focus on creating opportunity for those traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields.

As the demand for a workforce educated in science, engineering, technology and math (STEM) continues to grow, the Bay Area, home to some of the most innovative companies in the world, is positioned to lead the way in educating young people for STEM careers, especially young people traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields. But the path between school and jobs is not always clear for students. To that end, Nicola Clifford, a management consultant who has worked across public, private and nonprofit sectors, was hired as a FUSE Fellow in 2015 to work with the Office of the Mayor of San Francisco, the San Francisco Unified School District and the Chamber of Commerce to create a unified, comprehensive plan to connect more students to STEM careers and cement the initiative within the Chamber.

During her fellowship, Clifford worked to integrate disparate efforts into a cohesive strategy. To generate ideas for STEM career pathways, she brought together organizations from the public and private sectors, including leaders from the Mayor’s office, SFUSD; private companies like Kaiser Permanente, Salesforce, and Genentech; and local colleges like San Francisco State University. Together they developed goals and created a framework for getting students from high school to STEM careers, and developed and fostered ideas for strengthening pathways from school to jobs.

The group also developed and deployed a data system and scorecard for the City, School District, partners in higher education, as well as businesses, to track the outcomes of the group’s work, as students graduate and pursue post-secondary pathways. The collaborative will connect with LinkedIn and Beyond 12, a nonprofit that supports students along their journey after graduation, capturing data on young people’s progress, for the first time shedding light on the critical time period in a youth’s life from the age of 18 to 24. This will allow all collaborative members to gain visibility into the long-term outcomes of their investments and enable the ability to fine tune STEM programming to better support youth based on their identified needs.

More than 20 partners from all sectors, including corporate partners like LinkedIn and Zynga as well as organizations like Change Catalyst, which aims to help diversify the technology workforce, joined the collective impact effort. One of the first key partnerships formed was between San Francisco State University (SFSU), the school district, Metro Academies, and the Chamber of Commerce to address the need for better computer science education in high school called the San Francisco Computer Science For All (SF CALL) program. And together with Keith Bowman, Dean of the College of  Science and Engineering at SFSU, they won a National Science Foundation grant to create the pathways from high school, to college and STEM careers.

Funds from the grant will work to improve STEM interest in high school students, including:

  1. Supporting curriculum development for high school computer science classes.
  2. Bringing the Metro Academies (community colleges) into high schools, focusing on first-generation college students, to get high schoolers interested and engaged in computer science.
  3. Teacher training for computer science teachers, for which the district has been historically lacking.
  4. Working to include computer science as an acceptable science requirement for high school graduation.

The STEM Talent Pathway initiative is now established in the Chamber of Commerce, and is co-chaired by Genentech and San Francisco State, where Clifford believes the work will continue, as private and public sector partnerships connect to help build a bridge for students to STEM careers in their own backyard.

In the long term, Clifford and the team are counting on the Talent Pathway becoming ingrained in the Chamber of Commerce’s foundation as a key area of focus. She believes that having the project live in the private sector is critical, as there is a great need to continue to bring in business perspective as these pipeline programs continue to grow.