This year’s World Quantum Day celebration has become more impactful thanks to the steadily growing quantum community. World Quantum Day is celebrated on April 14th, as a reference to the first few digits of Planck’s constant: 4:135667 x 10-15. This constant is essential in governing quantum physics. While many companies are using the holiday to explain the importance of quantum technology, other organizations, like Qubit by Qubit, are making the holiday about equity in the quantum workforce.
Qubit by Qubit is a quantum education initiative of The Coding School, a nonprofit dedicated to emerging technology education. Qubit by Qubit works to educate people of all ages and from all backgrounds on the importance of quantum computing. Because of its nonprofit status, Qubit by Qubit has a one-of-a-kind impact on the quantum industry. “We’re a pretty unique player,” explained Qubit by Qubit Program Director, Rachel Zuckerman. “When it comes to workforce development we don’t personally have jobs that we can hire students for. So, our work is only as effective as the partners we collaborate with. We’ve had incredible reception from universities, major industry players, and startups, and I think as those groups get more established, and we continue to grow in our own ability to collaborate with our partners, the relationships will keep getting deeper and deeper, which is really exciting.” One of the group’s most recent partnerships has been with the National Q-12 Education Partnership, an initiative created in collaboration between the NSF and the White House Office of Science and Technology, where Qubit by Qubit is one of the Partnership’s newest members. This initiative focuses on supporting and teaching middle and high school students about quantum technologies.
Because of their unique position, Qubit by Qubit helps teach a major part of the incoming quantum workforce. This workforce is essential for the industry, as many quantum companies are already feeling a workforce shortage, and are worried that the shortage will only grow. Qubit by Qubit is working to make a dent in the talent gap by educating the next generation of quantum workers and doing it in a sustainable and equitable way. According to Zuckerman: “We’ve introduced about 15,000 students to quantum computing over the past two years. And that’s from 125 countries with more than 50% of students coming from underrepresented backgrounds in STEM.” But the group is going beyond these impactful results to be sure students get exactly what they need. “Like any industry, students interested in quantum need pathways to help them not just learn the basic content, but really develop their skills and gain real-world experience,” she added.
To help develop these much-needed pathways, Qubit by Qubit is launching two pilot programs. One is for high school students who take the organization’s two-semester Introduction to Quantum Computing course. In the pilot program, these students will be paired with universities in their area to do research placements in quantum research. “We’ve somehow convinced professors to take on high school students to help with quantum research, which is really exciting,” Zuckerman said. This allows high school students to get more hands-on experience in quantum research to prepare them at an earlier age for university, and later, a position in this industry. Similarly, the other pilot program will give early college undergraduates from backgrounds underrepresented in STEM internship positions at quantum companies. “We’re working with IBM, BP, the Unitary Fund, Qunnect, and others,” Zuckerman added. “They’ll all be taking on students, and students will spend half their summer training with us, and then they’ll spend half their summer doing an internship placement with the company.” This program is creating direct pipelines between diverse undergraduate students and quantum companies, helping to properly develop the next quantum workforce.
Qubit by Qubit also has the quantum workforce in mind for celebrating World Quantum Day. As Zuckerman explained, the group will host two events, “One will be a panel focused on equity and diversity,” she said. “We want this holiday to be an opportunity with all eyes on the field, to pause and think critically about where we are as a community and where we need to go.” The second event is more hands-on, as the group helps participants code their first quantum circuit in under an hour. “We wanted to make a really low barrier-to-entry event, and give a fun, quick, and easy way for someone who has literally no exposure to quantum computing, to join us,” Zuckerman added.
For Zuckerman specifically, World Quantum Day needs to have an equity focus, encouraging the community to think about how to make quantum opportunities accessible to everyone. “I’d like to ask everyone to pause and consider what role they play in this ecosystem? Whether that’s thinking about creating new internship slots for students with limited prior exposure to quantum or thinking ahead about how they can bring diverse students into their company and give them meaningful opportunities to gain experience that they couldn’t get elsewhere.”