The Diné people of the Navajo Nation are facing a serious challenge. There are few jobs on their tribal lands, where the unemployment rate stands at 19%. The vast expanses of the Southwest are a deterrent to working the minimum-wage jobs that are an hour or more away — a losing proposition when the cost of traveling back and forth eats into every paycheck.
Navajo Technical University is trying to address this conundrum facing the Diné. At its main campus in Crownpoint, N.M., and four other campuses in New Mexico and Arizona, the university offers associate, bachelor’s and graduate degrees. One recent student, the first to receive a Bachelor of Science in biology from the university, will continue his education at Harvard University. Additionally, Navajo Tech offers 23 career-oriented certificate programs that prepare students for jobs in everything from automotive technology, bookkeeping and culinary arts to construction, law enforcement and health care.
The graduation rate from certificate programs is low, however, and often there’s a gap between learning the skills and getting a chance to apply them. Internships can help fill that gap, and a grant from Bank of America is supporting 200 Navajo students through an internship program that shows them exactly what real-world employers need and expect. This program is part of Bank of America’s five-year, $1.25 billion commitment to advance racial equality and economic opportunity.