Pitch Perfect: Tech and Inclusion

Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, was on stage and in conversation with Wharton professor Adam Grant a few days ago. Grant asked Hoffman to demo a pitch to the audience. “We have a serious inclusion problem in the tech industry,” Hoffman began.

It’s true. There are over 600,000 open IT jobs that are taking over five weeks to fill . But only 9.2 percent  of entry level tech jobs are held by African Americans and Hispanics, despite the fact that both demographic groups are over-represented in the ranks of the unemployed. And, though there are ten-week boot camps that can give people the skills they need to get and do IT jobs, as Hoffman pointed out, they cost roughly $11,000, which “plays right into the inclusion issue.” And so Hoffman went on to lay out a vision for “a scholarship fund…focused at diversity and inclusion” that will “enable the pipeline to good jobs to scale.”

Unprompted (and unexpected from Hoffman's longtime ally in social innovation, our co-founder Byron Auguste), Reid pitched Opportunity@Work and TechHire:

Since our founding in 2015, Opportunity@Work has served as the central hub for the TechHire initiative, an effort currently led by 50 communities across the nation and their partners – including governors, mayors, employers, training institutions, local technology associations, and other civic organizations – to take action to create a stronger, more inclusive tech talent pipeline for real IT jobs in demand. TechHire represents the encapsulation of our overall mission: There are people who can do jobs that need to be filled if only they’re given the opportunity to learn the skills and to be hired. We’re focusing first on IT jobs because these roles, which are critical for employers in almost every industry and pay fifty percent above the median wage, account for roughly fifteen percent of open jobs—that can be filled if we focus on putting people’s potential and ability to do the job over their pedigree.

Our goal is to make high-quality accelerated IT training available to more low-income Americans, in particular African Americans, Hispanics, and women, all traditionally underrepresented in tech jobs that they can certainly do, if only they’re given the opportunity to learn.

The average bootcamp cost is around $11,000; its length, around 11 weeks. Opportunity@Work is covering the cost by assembling a team of partners to pioneer lending based on bootcamp quality, not individual credit scores, and leveraging grant funds and partner organizations to provide subsidies for childcare and housing for those who can’t up and leave their lives for over two months. Through TechHire, we’re partnering with leading bootcamps that are specifically targeting underrepresented minorities: including Sabio, Telegraph Academy, and ZipCode Wilmington, which has improved graduate’s annual earnings by 120%.

 Simply put: we’re making sure that IT jobs are accessible to the people who need them, while ensuring employers get the highly skilled workforce they need and that our locally economies count on to innovate and flourish in the digital age.

To catalyze and scale this movement, Opportunity@Work launched the platform TechHire.org and created a national learning network for all TechHire communities, their partners, and participating employers. Over 600 employers have signed on as employer partners—from CVS, Monsanto, and Accenture to Citizens Bank—and agree to hire (or offer paid apprenticeships with the intention to hire) people on the basis of knowledge, not whether or where they went to college. In Rhode Island alone, we’ve begun the process of placing 2,000 job seekers in IT jobs across industries in five years.

And we’re not stopping there: On the one-year anniversary of TechHire earlier this month, the White House, which launched the initiative, announced TechHire's expansion from 35 to 50 new cities, states, and rural communities—benefiting thousands more lives.

We have ourselves a movement. Or, to borrow Hoffman’s parlance: We have a serious inclusion solution for the tech industry.

To learn more about TechHire and get involved, please visit www.TechHire.org and www.opportunityatwork.org or follow us on social media: www.twitter.com/opptyatwork