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New partnership brings more tech opportunities

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Renewed efforts to bring more tech engagement to our community are underway: InnoPower, Rooted School (Rooted), the Indianapolis Recorder and Eleven Fifty Academy have announced a partnership to improve exposure to technology and light up career paths into the tech industry for African Americans. The shared mission is to create opportunities and a clear career roadmap, from high school to adulthood, for African Americans, who are currently underrepresented in tech.

By reverse engineering clear pathways to entering the tech workforce, these partnering organizations are working to create a tech talent funnel. Creating change and opening doors to mentorship, internships and open forum discussions on career opportunities for people of color to enter the tech workforce has been a driver of Emil Ekiyor, CEO and Founder of InnoPower.

“Tech is supposed to be the great equalizer. It is projected that the Indianapolis area’s base of tech occupation employment — a subset of net tech employment — will grow by 7.8% by 2026*. We can’t just sit back and hope Black and brown students are prepared for these opportunities,” said Ekiyor, who was born in Nigeria and moved to the U.S. at the age of 15 to pursue his education. “We must create them.”

Community engagement is a major component of the plan, with town halls planned in 2021.

Creating awareness is critical so that people can discover their own potential for a career in tech. Starting young, as with Rooted School, provides students early experience and exposure to highly sought-after jobs in technology. A goal for Rooted School graduates is to go onto college with a sense of purpose and a relevant context for being there. All graduates will leave with a job offer in one hand and a college acceptance letter in the other.

If college isn’t a feasible option for Rooted graduates, Eleven Fifty Academy acts an alternative. Their courses provide certification to students with and without previous experience an opportunity to enter the tech space. Eleven Fifty is a nonprofit immersive learning academy with programs in web development, software development, cybersecurity and UX/UI. Their mission of impacting the lives of a million students this decade, by providing relevant coding skills for the most in-demand jobs in today’s tech ecosystem, is in alignment with the project initiatives.

While community engagement between industry and education is on the rise, these efforts are more challenging in underserved areas. The 46218 ZIP code is one of the zones that needs intentional efforts to help lift its population. By exposing Rooted students to the Eleven Fifty Academy model, students will be prepared to maximize their opportunities as they enter the tech industry. Rooted initiated its first class this year, with a capacity of 400 students as they add a grade each year. Its inaugural freshman class is successfully wrapping up their first semester.

“The mission of Rooted is to provide our students with personal pathways to financial freedom. Tech is not an afterthought at Rooted, it is the main focus and our students are immersed in it daily as we prepare them for the digital economy,” said Rooted School Founder and CEO Ma’at Lands. “This partnership will positively impact our students by engaging industry professionals and preparing them to excel in tech after graduation, to continue their education in college, or Eleven Fifty Academy, or wherever they opt to go.”

As many readers know, the Indianapolis Recorder is the fourth oldest African American newspaper in the United States. The paper is located in the heart of the 46218 ZIP code.

“For 125 years, the Indianapolis Recorder has been a champion of creating educational opportunities for African American students in Indianapolis,” said Robert Shegog, president and CEO of the Indianapolis Recorder. “This partnership addresses the ‘skills gap’ and will develop the talent required for new collar jobs in our community.”

These deliberate efforts to engage underserved youth with technology are similar to how sports created a funnel for recruitment. The engagement strategy starts at the top and the reaches all the way to early stage developmental levels. The partnership between these organizations enables the tech Industry to have “skin in the game” in this vital, transformational developmental process.

“There is nothing more powerful than someone realizing their potential,” said Scott Jones, president and founder of Eleven Fifty Academy. “At Eleven Fifty Academy, we transform lives and are committed to creating a tech talent funnel for growing technology companies. Providing mentorship and role models is critically important, especially in underrepresented populations.”

The group anticipates, and welcomes, many more partners to join the effort as they gather momentum to make a difference.

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