Internships and Underrepresented Student Persistence in Technical Education 

The CompTechS Program in the Occupational Training Institute at Foothill-De Anza Community College District was funded in June 2007 by the Advanced Technological Education Program of the National Science Foundation to study the impact of the program on student persistence in the Information Technology (IT) field, especially for low income and underrepresented groups.

The CompTechS (Computer Technical Support) program provides about 50 students a year with paid internships in a computer refurbishing lab on the De Anza College campus and also places qualified interns in local industry. Through the hands on experience in the production environment of the lab, students gain valued hardware skills, clarify career goals, and are counseled about useful courses and certifications to meet their goals. 

The computers that the interns refurbish in the lab are acquired through the solicitation of used computers from local companies and the community, providing a socially responsible means of retiring computer equipment. At the same time, the program bridges the “digital divide” by recycling these refurbished computers to disadvantaged students – financial aid recipients, Equal Opportunity Program and Services (EOPS) and CalWORKs (public assistance) students.

Year Two Major Accomplishments

  • 98 students have participated in a CompTechS internship from June 2007 to December 2008 and are in the research cohort for this second year report. Seventy-five percent (75.5%) of the students were from one of the groups we targeted (low income, women and underrepresented minorities). Sixteen students out of the 98 were women, 16%. Fifty-five percent (55%) of our cohort were receiving financial aid as compared to 20% in the rest of the De Anza College population.
  • Approximately, 227 disadvantaged students received refurbished computers through the program in the past year.
  • Nine companies in Silicon Valley took interns – Hewlett Packard, Cavium Networks, Fujitsu America, Synopsys, Roche Pharmaceuticals, VMWare, Applied Biosystems, Trend Micro and Flextronics-- providing students with valuable skills in information technology.
  • Forty-four students completed and exited the program from our research cohort. The data was consistent across completing interviewees that they increased their confidence, feelings of technical competence and readiness for the workplace. 
  • From June 2007 to December 2008, the persistence is 82% in documented course work, and up to 89% persistence in the field when self reported employment and transfer are considered. 
  • The CompTechS program provided a responsible recycling program for employers and the community, and disposal of e-waste.
  • Data was collected to answer the six research questions posed for year two and a findings report written. Findings are discussed below.
  • A Windows Technical Support certificate was developed in collaboration with the De Anza CIS Department and the CompTechS computer refurbishing lab is a hands-on component of the program. This program was marketed to the County of Santa Clara CalWORKS counselors through a half day presentation and tour of the lab. CalWORKS is a Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program that provides financial support to parents/caregivers. CalWORKS recipients are among the hardest to serve on community college campuses.

Links to Year Two Reports

This program is funded, in part, by the Chancellor's Office of the California Community Colleges, Economic and Workforce Development Unit and De Anza Associated Student Body. Also, partial support for this work was provided by the National Science Foundation's Advanced Technological Education (ATE) Program under Award No. 0703191.

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