UnitedHealth Group is helping a group of historically black colleges and universities in Atlanta expand the teaching of data science, one of the fastest-growing segments of technology study and employment.

The Minnetonka-based company will spend about $1.6 million annually over the next five years for a data-science initiative that will be offered to students at Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine and Spelman College.

The four schools form the Atlanta University Center Consortium (AUCC), the oldest and largest consortium of historically black colleges and universities. The funds will allow the consortium to hire a director for the program, pay for faculty development, guest lectures and other opportunities, including internships for students at UnitedHealth companies.

“We are grateful for UnitedHealth Group’s anchor investment in our vision, and we are in active conversations with other potential partners to assist us in other aspects of our plan,” Todd Greene, executive director for the consortium, said in a statement.

For UnitedHealth, the program represents an opportunity to expand a pipeline of prospective future employees in a tech sector that is intensely competitive. It is also a substantial boost in its education-related philanthropy. Over five years, the company will spend $8.25 million on the AUCC data-science program.

Over the past 12 years, UnitedHealth, through its foundation, has spent around $20 million on 2,600 scholarships for students pursuing careers as primary health care providers. The company has also donated millions more to several colleges for new education programs in emerging technologies and to tackle shortages of medical professionals in parts of the country.

In the statement announcing the company’s work with AUCC, UnitedHealth Chief Executive David Wichmann said the data-science initiative “aligns with our desire to ensure our workforce for the future is diverse and possesses the skills needed to propel our company for continued success.”

UnitedHealth Group operates UnitedHealthcare, the nation’s largest health insurance company, and Optum, the largest provider of data and other services for medical firms.