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According to a Department of Energy (DOE) press release, transitioning to clean energy can create exciting new job opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. Last month, the DOE launched the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Clean Energy Education Prize. This competition aims to assist HBCUs in developing programs that will boost K-12 and college interest in STEM fields. (Photo contributor: AS photo family, Shutterstock.com)

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The prize competition, worth $7.75 million, will help create community networks that promote clean energy and inspire the next generation to work in STEM fields related to clean energy. The goal is to build a diverse STEM pipeline that will support America’s clean energy future.

A DOE spokesperson for diversity and STEM said in a statement that the clean energy transition presents an opportunity to offer pathways to underrepresented communities in STEM. Enlisting HBCUs and utilizing their networks’ ideas, perspectives, and expertise can help the U.S. develop a strong, diverse STEM workforce and improve research quality and innovation to accelerate the field of clean energy.

HBCUs represent only 3% of all post-secondary institutions in the United States, yet they graduate 17% of all Black students. Significantly, 40% of Black students pursuing graduate degrees in STEM attended HBCUs for their undergraduate studies. DOE hopes that this prize will better equip these institutions with the resources and infrastructure they need to train a critical portion of the clean energy workforce.

The HBCU Clean Energy Education Prize aims to expand clean energy learning opportunities for younger generations, build robust programming that provides opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students, and establish partnerships that lead to career opportunities in clean energy. The prize is open to all 100+ HBCU institutions across the United States, and schools are eligible to compete in one or both prize tracks.

The Inspire Track supports developing and expanding HBCU-hosted clean energy summer or academic break programs for K-12 and community college students, while the Partnership Track supports building partnerships between HBCUs and other universities to provide opportunities to equip HBCU students with the skills needed to succeed in the clean energy industry.

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