New Minnesota program hopes to close computer skills gap for people of color

Only 4% of tech jobs in the state are held by black people in Minnesota. Latinos hold only 7%.

This is evidence of a large skills gap that the state hopes to address through an ongoing $1 million pilot program and an additional $28 million. Governor Tim Walz has proposed investing in computer training programs for teens, young adults and people of color across the state. .

The programs would be among the first in Minnesota to focus on computer training for communities of color.

Software development jobs in Minnesota pay $100,000 a year, and machine programmers earn an average of $64,000 a year. These two areas are growing at a rate of 21 and 22 percent per year, said Steve Grove, commissioner for the Department of Jobs and Economic Development.

The low number of people of color in these fields reflects a lack of awareness of career opportunities and a deficit of digital skills, said DEED Deputy Commissioner Marc Majors.

“Frankly, we need something there,” Grove said, adding that Minnesota ranked 50th in the nation for the number of high school students who passed an advanced placement exam in computer science.

The $1 million pilot program awarded four grants to community and nonprofit groups: Phyllis Wheatley Community Center ($215,468); Minnesota State Computing Center of Excellence ($300,000); Digital Academy Bonus ($200,000); and Software for Good ($200,000).

The groups are currently writing curricula for training programs and partnering with companies such as Comcast, Microsoft and Medtronic to create teaching, mentoring, internship and job placement programs.

“I’m thrilled that this new program is engaging young, creative BIPOC Minnesotans in tech careers,” Grove said at a recent gathering of educators, tech experts and Comcast officials at the Phyllis Wheatley Center, NY. north of Minneapolis.

“Overall, tech jobs are going to be the future of our economy,” he said, and yet the state doesn’t have a sufficient pipeline of candidates ready to get into the job market. industry.

Comcast Twin Cities, which is working with the Phyllis Wheatley Center on its program, hopes to advance its diversity and equity initiatives.

“It would be great to have people [at Comcast] who started their [digital] career path here. Personally, that would be my dream,” said Allyson Hartle, vice president of government affairs at Comcast.

The center also works with Medtronic on internships and placement.

Phyllis Wheatley’s program now has 12 weeks of “hyper coding” classes, said Quanda Arch, director of the center’s DigitalTechWorks Academy program.

Phyllis Wheatley has also just teamed up with North High School, where she plans to teach a new series of software, computer graphics and game design courses using state grant funds, it said. she declared.

Margie D. Carlisle