As a shortage of skilled workers and graduates becomes more apparent within the U.S. economy, telecommunications giant AT&T is planning to launch a quarter-billion-dollar campaign to help more students graduate from high school.
In a bid to combat the high levels of college and high school dropout rates, the company has pledged $250,000 to see what can be done to prevent a nationwide dropout 'crisis' -- which could damage global competition, local economies and innovation in the future.
The initiative, AT&T Aspire, is one of the most financially vested initiatives in the corporate sector aimed at education. In an attempt to promote a 'socially innovative' approach, the funding focuses on improving success rates at high schools, and both preparing and assisting students that are considered 'at risk' of leaving education.
The Aspire scheme has already impacted many U.S. high school students, expanding on a smaller scheme that begun in 2008. The new grant will be invested over the next five years, and will focus on the use of technology in order to communicate with students -- through interactive gamification, social media and web-based content.
AT&T Aspire also plans to expand personal mentoring, internships and voluntary efforts that may help boost both a student's confidence and resume, as well as gain experience and knowledge of the company.
It is natural for a company to probably have vested interest -- for example, building a future customer base or ensuring that it has an avenue to train staff considering the high possibility of a future shortage (especially within STEM subjects), but considering the current economic climate, a grant is a grant, and benefits may outweigh any ulterior motives.
Sylvia Russell, AT&T Georgia State President, said:
"It will take all of us working together and supporting educators' hard work to continue to improve graduation rates and preparedness for careers and college. American business has an enormous stake in the success of our students. It's time to commit more innovation and resources to the task."
Those who wish to apply for grants must show evidence of a dropout-prevention program, and in the case of non-profit organisations, there must be a connection to school districts. Applications concerning STEM subjects -- science, technology, maths and engineering -- will take priority. The awards will range from $100,000 to $300,000.