Extend the IT pipeline by taking the show on the road

The Greater Cleveland Partnership’s IT Careers Expo returned, after a two-year pandemic hiatus, as part of the organization’s annual Tech Week, which ran Oct. 18-20.

The expo, designed to bring students and graduates together with local tech employers to broaden the talent pool, has added an offsite mobile program aimed at helping adults from minority communities find a path to a career in IT. .

His career-focused events at the IX Center have attracted more than 1,000 high school and college students from across the region to help them on their way to a degree or a career in computer science — and, as executive director of tech-saving initiatives of GCP, Courtney DeOreo, pointed out, to encourage these workers to stay in northeast Ohio.

The exhibit on Tuesday morning, October 18, brought together high school students for “Passport to IT Careers,” then in the afternoon, college and university students and recent graduates for “Linking Talent to Opportunity.”

“For high schoolers, we call it an exposure and exploration program. … We’re just trying to get industry awareness,” DeOreo said. “For college and university students, we are pushing an interest in IT jobs and internships. This is more of a traditional job fair.”

The expo unveiled a Best of NEO map that allows attendees to view all the IT opportunities available to them in the region, which DeOreo says is another tool to help keep IT professionals potential here. It’s also branched out to cater to high school students who aren’t necessarily on a college track and might be better off going straight into entry-level IT jobs, which DeOreo says require always formal training or short-term degrees.

“We realized that we were leaving these students out of the conversation before, and we wanted to be more responsive to them,” she said.

The goal is to spark interest in IT careers, regardless of background, with organizations such as GCP’s IT Workforce Industry Partnership looking to create a continuum of workers entering the field with different skills at different levels, but as soon as possible.

While the exhibit at the IX Center focused on a traditional path from education to employment, Craig Platt, Managing Director of GCP’s IT Sector Partnership, was in the community for two days with the Bridges to IT Roadshow. This program is for adults between the ages of 20 and 40 who live and work in communities that are underrepresented in the industry.

Minorities make up 23% of the population and 19% of the workforce in northeast Ohio, according to Team NEO with data from 18 counties. However, black workers occupy only 12% of jobs in the region and only 8% in computer-related occupations.

The pilot program, created in January, was designed to develop and provide a more diverse IT talent pool to employers, Platt said. The goal is to bring to these communities a less formal and fundamental awareness of potential careers in IT.

The two-day roadshow offered four 25-minute sessions that started with a robot demonstration, moved on to a presentation of basic cybersecurity information and a practical drone flight simulation, and ended with an introduction. a free coding app that participants could use to assess their skills.

“We show them an industrial production robot and drones,” Platt said. “After the demonstration with the robot, we emphasize that these simple and repetitive movements are achieved using only 12 lines of computer code.”

Showcasing technology that comes from just 12 lines of code or showing a cute AI-powered robot from a smartphone helps reach people, Platt said, and avoids shutting them down as tech concepts become more popular. complex.

“For so long, we’ve started in the middle with more advanced basic technical training instead of really exploring the interests and assessing the skills that fit each person,” Platt said.

He said motivating the region’s “untapped talent” into IT careers and hoping for better outcomes for underrepresented communities requires stepping back to look at ways to put people at ease to learn. basic computer skills.

“Too often people expect candidates to go into an IT career just because they’re pointing out that it’s a great opportunity, but how can they do that if they really don’t know what or how to start? Platt asked.

The difficulty of taking that first step is why the roadshow began with what Platt calls “exposure and exploration.” Only once participants know what IT can do are they presented with some type of skill test or assessment.

With the free app, called SNAP, participants in the last 25 minutes of the roadshow were introduced to a program that uses logic-based sequencing skills to create simple computer code. Platt said the app helps many people realize they have an aptitude for the skills that are the underlying pathway for IT jobs.

Another integral part of the Bridges to IT program, Platt said, is the partnership between minority-owned service providers and technical experts from Urban City Codes, We Can Code and the Minority Technology Alliance who teach technology and skills. community organizations – JumpStart, Youth Opportunities Unlimited, Towards Employment, El Barrio, and the Cuyahoga County Public Library, which provide coaching, job placement, and funding for further training.

Using private, public, and philanthropic funding available to both technology training and underserved communities, the Bridges to IT program can help secure credentials for entry-level IT positions in customer service. and quality assurance, Platt said.

“When you provide funding and community support, people are more confident and comfortable, and those careers don’t seem like a pipe dream,” Platt said.

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