Business, education, and nonprofit leaders working together to grow advanced technology and science talent pools


Press Release – May 12, 2021

SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA, CA – In late April, the Krause Center for Innovation (KCI), Ignited, and Science from Scientists (SfS) wrapped up their inaugural Data Science and Analytics workshop with teachers from across the Bay Area, completing the first part of their new StepUP workforce development and diversity program.

On May 12, a new workshop begins, this time with a focus on synthetic biology. These advanced topics provide a new set of subjects that students and teachers often don’t see.

The StepUP initiative supports schools and businesses at a critical time closing gaps in education resources, career opportunities, and professional role models for students in low-income and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities at Title 1 schools. The three nonprofit teams delivering the program worked together to build an approach that combines virtual workshops, summer projects at companies, classroom content and coaching to broaden Science, Technology, Education, and Mathematics (STEM) curriculum.

“Low-income and BIPOC communities need access to the resources, career opportunities, and professional role models that some students get on a regular basis. At the same time, companies that can provide this support want simpler and more relevant ways to engage with underserved schools. That’s why StepUP exists,” said Jeff Schmidt, Ignited’s CEO.

“Our three organizations created StepUP to grow a well-trained local talent pool. Topics like data science, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, cryptocurrencies, and autonomous vehicles are not being taught in middle and high schools today, but they’re engaging and relevant for students. So we’ve started with new content for those topics and will then help teachers deliver that content and bring professionals into their classrooms as company and career role models.”

Even before the pandemic, school resources were not equitably distributed. Lower-income students from BIPOC backgrounds are less likely to have access to advanced technology and science opportunities and their associated resources. According to a 2019 study from EdBuild, predominantly non-white school districts in the U.S. receive, on average, $23 billion less than majority white schools with an equivalent number of students.

And now, COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions have further widened education disparities, disproportionately impacting BIPOC and low-income students. New federal funding is on the way, but schools, teachers, and students need programs like StepUP to get learning back on track and reverse these trends.

The three-day Data Science and Analytics Workshop that just finished provided about 20 teachers with the fundamental concepts and a set of resources and experiences for further learning. Those teachers will bring their new knowledge back to approximately 3,000 students in underserved communities this year alone and they’re given new tools to update their teaching practices and discuss the exciting companies and careers using data science. Initial funding for StepUP was provided by Genentech and the State of California to create content for data science, synthetic biology, semiconductors, mobility, and artificial intelligence, with more subjects on the way.


“Teachers are the most effective way for companies to reach students at scale. And teachers continue using ideas and refreshing their knowledge, so they can bring advanced technology and science topics to tens of thousands of students with a small investment,” said Gay Krause, Executive Director for the Krause Center for Innovation at Foothill College. “It’s a smart way for companies and community leaders to invest in growing a highly skilled local talent pool, which is far less expensive than recruiting and relocating talent from outside the Bay Area.”


A variety of companies, nonprofits, schools, and county offices of education are working together on a range of StepUP projects over the next 6-12 months. Industry associations also play a key role in developing a strong and diverse local workforce.

“Our industry is projected to double in size over the next 10 years and a strong supply of local talent will be critical to the growth of our 2,400 member companies,” said Shari Liss, Executive Director of the SEMI Foundation. SEMI is the global industry association for the electronics manufacturing and semiconductor industry. “We’re working with the StepUP program team to grow those talent pools and their focus on underserved communities aligns with our priorities. We want to dismantle the systemic barriers of racism, poverty, and opportunity inequality that holds many of these students back.”

Companies wanting to sponsor an advanced technology or science subject are invited to reach out to Jeff Schmidt (contact information below) to learn more and get started.

Name: Jeff Schmidt



The Krause Center for Innovation was founded in 1998 by Gay Krause, a former teacher, counselor, and middle school principal in Mountain View, California. The center provides STEM-oriented courses throughout the year, introduces K-14 teachers and students to new technology and cutting-edge curriculum, and partners with education-oriented nonprofits and foundations to serve the educator segment. Over 21,000 teachers have taken KCI courses and programs since the facility opened in 2000 on the campus of Foothill College in Los Altos. Learn more at:

Ignited (formerly IISME) was founded in 1985 by 12 of the Bay Area’s leading CEOs and the Lawrence Hall of Science at UC Berkeley after they saw students graduating from high school without the math and science skills needed for career success. For the past 35 years, Ignited has provided unique workforce development solutions, including paid teacher summer experiences at companies, universities, and nonprofits, programs to develop and deliver advanced technology and science curriculum, diversity and underserved population programs, career experience weeks, virtual internships, and more. As one of the pioneers of STEM professional development, Ignited has helped over 410 companies, universities, and foundations support the needs of more than 2,079 teachers, 770 schools, and 3.3 million students. Learn more at:

Science from Scientists was founded in 2002 by Dr. Erika Ebbel Angle after touring schools and noticing that few science topics were being taught in elementary and middle schools. Curriculum was often obsolete and not relevant for modern practices and she saw that students had little enthusiasm for it. Science from Scientists was founded to address these issues. It gives every student, particularly those from lower-income and BIPOC communities, the opportunity to learn about real-world STEM practices from real scientists and technologists. Learn more at: