AT&T Pledges $1M to Closing Skills Gap, Supporting Tech Startups

The tech giant will reward participating Ed-Tech startups with $125,000. Applications are accepted until Feb. 1.

When it comes to being the change you want to see in the world, AT&T’s new Skills Building Challenge, a program designed to increase North Texas’ talent pool and overcome the nation’s tech skills gap, embodies the motto.

In celebration of the fifth anniversary of Aspire Accelerator, AT&T’s education technology accelerator program, the telecom giant on Monday announced the launch of its Skills Building Challenge, a STEM education-focused program that will pair students with organizations to give students the skills they need to fill the talent pipelines of today and tomorrow.

AT&T will accept online applications for the program until Feb. 1. It will then choose eight applicants to receive $100,000 for their participation in addition to $25,000 which is intended to cover the costs of the program.

An October, 2018 Aspire Accelerator event focused on entrepreneurship and innovation, and brought guests from the AT&T Aspire Accelerator. [Photo: Alex Edwards]

During the program, participating Ed-Tech startups will have access to AT&T’s senior executives and mentoring from leading minds in the education and skilling space. 

“We must find innovative ways to get students the skills they need to keep up in an economy increasingly driven by technological advances such as artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality,” Charlene Lake, SVP-Corporate Social Responsibility and chief sustainability officer at AT&T, said in a statement. “Every company, including AT&T, wants a pipeline of skilled talent coming through the door.

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The Skills Building Challenge is an extension of AT&T’s Aspire Accelerator works with technology-focused organizations to help students, schools, and communities succeed. The intent is to prepare “today’s learners for the jobs of tomorrow,” and show how technology is fundamentally changing the way things are done, Dallas Innovates reported in October 2018.

In May 2018, the accelerator kicked off a new class, and those selected earned numerous benefits: a $100,000 AT&T Aspire investment and additional $25,000 to cover related costs, a four-to-six month customized program, access to AT&T and external mentors, flexible location, and opportunities to participate in various conferences and services.

“Our Accelerator program has a proven track record of finding and funding the most innovative organizations in Ed-Tech,” Lake said. “We’re excited to do the same with ventures focused on preparing students to get and keep good jobs in the 21st century.”

Accelerator advisors and mentors include, among others, Charles Best, founder and CEO,; Kimberly Bryant, founder, Black Girls CODE; Betsy Corcoran, co-founder and CEO, EdSurge; and Sebastian Thrun, founder and president of Udacity.

AT&T has promised a total of $1 million to Skills Building Challenge participants in 2019. Since 2008, the corporation has made a financial commitment of $450 million.

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