Diversity & Inclusion
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City gov is pumping half a million dollars into diversifying Philly’s tech talent

Coded by Kids, Campus Philly, Venture for America and Technically Media will each receive funding to work on a specific part of the workforce development project.

A Coded by Kids class; founder Sylvester Mobley stands at back. (Courtesy photo)

This editorial article is a part of Workforce Development Month of Technical.ly's editorial calendar.

Full disclosure: Technically Media, Technical.ly's parent company, is receiving $75,000 to manage the Philadelphia Tech Industry Partnership within the PHL: Most Diverse Tech Hub initiative.
Update: Comment from the Department of Commerce about the City's budget allocation has been added, as well as an embedded tweet and a new header photo. (11/25/20, 9:17 a.m.)

Philadelphia may be among the most diverse cities in the U.S. when it comes to the STEM workforce, but few would say that’s good enough for a major urban center with a glaring wealth gap and a technology sector that has long called for better representation of city residents.

Continuing its years-long involvement in efforts to diversify Philly’s pool of tech talent, the City of Philadelphia’s Mayor’s Office announced today it’s awarding $500,000 across a handful of organizations under its new PHL: Most Diverse Tech Hub initiative. The three-part initiative seeks to boost tech skills for the future talent pipeline — specifically Black and brown Philadelphians looking to move into technology careers.

Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement that while attending the South by Southwest conference in 2017, he realized how limited in diversity the tech sector in the U.S. is.

“Philadelphia has all the ingredients to become a national leader in fostering a diverse, innovative tech sector,” he said, “with a specific focus on ensuring more Black and brown Philadelphians are trained with the skills they need to succeed in one of the fastest growing and most lucrative industries.”

The City put out a call for proposals that would develop the tech talent pipeline, grow more diverse tech startups, and manage a tech industry partnership. With $500,000 to spend, today, it announced it had awarded the money to four orgs: Coded by Kids, Campus Philly, Venture for America and Technically Media, Technical.ly’s parent company.

The breakdown in funding looks like this:

Coded by Kids, Campus Philly and Venture for America were each given $100,000 to go toward work in retaining Black or brown residents in higher education and expose those students to tech employment opportunities. They’re charged with connecting students to paid internships, fostering connections with local colleges, university and education partners, and growing the number of private-sector employers that offer tech and tech-enabled internships.

The Philadelphia Tech Industry Partnership is looking for employers committed to providing internships, on-the-job training, unsubsidized employment and targeted mentoring.

“We are thrilled and really humbled by this opportunity at VFA,” Alison Garber, senior director of community partnerships, told Technical.ly. “We work closely with many local colleges and universities and this funding will allow us to expand our footprint as well as partner with other recipients to increase the founder pool when we look to the startups we work with for hiring to further diversify our program.”

Next, $115,000 was awarded to Coded by Kids’ OnE Philadelphia initiative — OnE stands for “opportunity and equity” — to invest in underrepresented startup founders and offer leadership, sales and marketing, operations, biz dev, and investment and capital-raising mentorship, as well as access to established tech companies to support their growth.

And Technically Media was given $75,000 to manage the Philadelphia Tech Industry Partnership, which saw a new iteration early this year in the City’s Greater Philadelphia Technology Partnership, before the Office of Workforce Development faced cuts in the summer. (The office now has only five staffers.) The latter program, launched before the pandemic in early 2020, was itself was an evolution of 2018’s Tech Industry Partnership, which also convened tech leaders in strategic conversation and data sharing.

Technically Media will manage this partnership by convening technology employers to identify sector and talent needs with workforce diversity at top of mind, and by building the network of employer partners. These partners should be committed to providing internships, on-the-job training, unsubsidized employment and targeted mentoring.

All of the project’s initial organizations and members who were preparing to convene in March will be included in this new iteration, said Kevin Lessard, communications director for the Department of Commerce.

“Any company with a presence in the city that is serious about making a commitment to diversifying its technology-enabled workforce and economic opportunity in Philadelphia can be a part of this initiative,” said Technically Media VP Vincent Better. To get involved or learn more, email vincent@technical.ly.

The last $10,000 of the project’s $500,000 will help further the overall initiative by supporting paid internships between Campus Philly, Coded by Kids and Venture for America, and the Philadelphia Tech Industry Partnership member businesses.

The funding for the PHL: Most Diverse Tech Hub initiative “came from a combination of current and prior year allocations, which were included in the FY21 budget that was developed after the COVID-related budget cuts,” Lessard told Technical.ly after this story published.

“We made the decision to invest in talent pipelines as a way to create the human resources infrastructure to support the future of many of our residents while at the same time working to enhance Philadelphia’s status as a desirable location for talent and businesses, long-term,” he said. “This initiative is part of a new, more equitable approach to attracting and retaining businesses and talent.”

This initiative and the Philadelphia Tech Industry Partnership in particular were both born out of the North Star conference convened by the City and partners, including the nonprofit Black & Brown Founders, in 2018, the Mayor’s Office said. It’s also part of a larger effort called the Respond, Restart, Recharge, Reimagine plan that aims to drive an “inclusive, equitable recovery and ensure the city and region’s long-term economic competitiveness as we rebound from the devastating economic impact caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Companies: Coded by Kids / Venture for America / Campus Philly / City of Philadelphia
Series: Workforce Development Month 2020
People: Vincent Better / James Kenney

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