Minnesota has long been a state that’s prided itself on its commitment to education. Now the state has taken on the mission of becoming a technology hub as well, setting the goal to become one of the country’s top five technology states by 2020. Last week, we travelled to Minnesota to pilot two new programs designed to help students with an interest in technology get a jump on the job market, and learn directly from Google engineers over Google+ Hangout.

First, we partnered with Teach for America on a classroom mentorship project that pairs Google engineers with middle school science and math classes via Google+ Hangouts. A dozen Googlers paired up with classrooms in Minneapolis/St. Paul last week to introduce a curriculum modelled after Solve for X, Google’s initiative that celebrates technology-based moonshot thinking to solve real-world problems. In the coming weeks, each classroom will chose a big problem to tackle (world hunger, homelessness, climate change, etc.) and develop an innovative technology solution to address it—with help from the Google mentor who will join the classroom via Google+ Hangout for coaching sessions. We think hangouts are a great way to connect Googlers with classrooms far away, and are looking to expand this pilot to other states in the fall.

Google Engineer Selim Onal talks with students at the Minneapolis KIPP Academy about Solve for X

We also kicked off our first-ever youth entrepreneurship training as part of our Google for Entrepreneurs programs. The summit brought together 60 high school students from the Minneapolis STEP-UP program, an effort designed to place students from lower-income communities as interns at Minnesota businesses over the summer. Our goal was to give these students some basic training in Google tools like Docs, Apps, YouTube and Google+ so that they can enter their internships with a better understanding of how technology and the Internet can be of help to them, as well as spark these students with an entrepreneurial drive that will serve them well in these opportunities. After a morning of learning about Google tools, the students broke out into teams to pitch their own business ideas to solve challenges in education, government, transportation and the music industry. A number of mentors from the Minneapolis tech community joined us to help coach the students, and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak was on hand himself to help get the students started.

Minneapolis STEP-UP students pitch their start-up ideas to address a series of real-world challenges

Science and technology disciplines are projected to add 70,000 jobs to the Minnesota job market by 2019. We hope by partnering with local organizations, we can help give students the inspiration and skills to enter that job market ready to excel.