Tech-Centered Initiatives

In the New York Times, Steve Lohr writes that while “preparing people for tech jobs is hailed as the great employment hope of the future, it’s not happening for the underserved populations in our country.” Many small efforts exist, he notes, but are not even close to touching “a swath of the labor market anywhere close to the size of manufacturing.”

His article begins with Brittney Ball’s story. “She was living in a homeless shelter with her baby when she learned of a one-year program offering technical training, professional skills, and an internship.” He says, “She took the plunge,” and now is a software engineer in Charlotte, N.C., making more than $50K per year.

Enter Year Up, a nonprofit organization that recognizes the potential out there and works to connect people to various internships and apprenticeship programs. Brittney Ball got her start through this organization. This video encapsulates the problem and demonstrates Year Up’s solutions:

Recently, while thinking about the need for a change in our education system, I’ve wondered what needs to be done to get the word out. What word? Well, that there are millions of minorities that have untapped talent because of incorrect notions of intelligence ingrained in teachers and administrators, and because girls are told they can’t do math by peers, parents, and teachers (and that’s not even the half of it). To progress in this nation–to fill the tech jobs of the future and keep the U.S. competitive in the global economy–we’ve got to get rid of those fallacies.

So I heavily pondered, as I typically do while feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders, could we destroy the fallacies and change the thinking of the majority of our teachers, and while we’re at it, of our parents? In my mind, I see this as an insurmountable problem because it involves too many people needing to rethink and reformulate their belief systems–and while through education or professional development, many people can begin to understand the problem and adjust their thinking in order to open the way for so many who’ve had doors shut in their faces just because of their gender or race or socioeconomic status, there are still those whose belief systems stem from racist or patriarchal mindsets that are not easily overcome. This made me feel sad, as if change would come too slowly and the cycle of lost opportunity would keep on going and going like the Energizer Bunny.

Skills aren’t always measured by a diploma. They’re measured by the experience you gain and the type of training that you receive.

Noel Ginsberg, CEO, InterTech Plastics and CareerWise Colorodo

I felt a million pounds lift from my mind when I read the NY Times article today because it led me to resources that I was not previously aware of: Year Up, and also to TechHire, Skillful, and Per Scholas. After perusing their websites, I cheered! Yay that there are great big nonprofits with financial backing, partners, and media presence who are able to bridge the divide for young adults who were failed by the K-12 system, or as Per Scholas calls them, the “overlooked talent pools.” Yay, I thought to myself. I understand that the message may take a long time to reach every parent with daughters and every teacher with minority students, but that is okay because together, we are stronger. I wonder what other organizations exist to lift people up in this way? I know I’m just beginning to scrape the surface, and I certainly hope to make more positive discoveries as I dig and read and learn. I’ll keep you posted!

Per Scholas connects “overlooked talent pools” to good paying jobs after training.

Providing Opportunity in the Digital Economy: A video from Markle and Microsoft on creating a skills-based labor market: