Tech firms around Baltimore will be welcoming interns from city high schools who are seeking on-the-job coding experience this summer.
Mayor Brandon Scott on Monday announced the launch of a six-week paid work experience partnership with equity-focused tech workforce coalition Baltimore Tracks, computer science education nonprofit Code in the Schools, technical training nonprofit Pass IT On and Baltimore City Public Schools.
With 12 interns placed at 10 firms in the inaugural year, it adds a new tech component to YouthWorks, the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development-run program that will overall place 6,200 young adults at one of over 200 virtual or in-person worksites.
Running from June 28-August 6, the program will match YouthWorks participants with member companies of Baltimore Tracks, which includes a group of the city’s fastest-growing tech companies, as well as the nonprofit partners.
“Coding has opened my eyes and allowed me to become more aware because code is everywhere,” Aryee, a rising senior at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, said at a press conference on Monday. “It’s millions of lines creating the simplest and easiest things to use like texting or searching. The experience I’ve gained from these programs has opened opportunities in the STEM field for me, but in the future I hope to use these skills to help people.”
In general, the tech industry is an area of high salary opportunity with a need for talent to fill open jobs. Despite that gap, disparities remain. The numbers of Black and Latinx professionals at the largest tech firms nationwide rose by less than a percentage point since 2014, according to reporting by Wired.
“The key to creating a truly diverse technology workforce is exposure. However, many youth in Baltimore City are never given the chance to be exposed to high tech career fields,” said Professor Willie Sanders, executive director of Pass IT On. “Companies also miss out on bright and talented employment candidates who could contribute greatly to their organization’s efforts if given a chance.”
We’ve seen partnerships as a way to create pipelines to careers in tech. Along with this effort for city youth, there’s Morgan State University’s Google Tech Exchange for college students, or work on apprenticeships by CompTIA and the U.S Department of Labor.
"Businesses must be active participants in solving challenges in the communities in which they operate."
“The young people who come through our programs have so much talent and are just waiting for that opportunity,” said Gretchen LeGrand, CEO of Code in the Schools. “…The Baltimore Tracks internship pilot is a great start and we’re so thrilled by this group of tech companies and the thought they have put into the projects that the young people will be working on this summer.”
Because of the partnerships with Baltimore Tracks member organizations like Audacious Inquiry, Balti Virtual, Early Charm Ventures, Flave, Mindgrub, Mind Over Machines, Protenus, SmartLogic, TechSlice and Traitify, as well as Code in the Schools, and Pass IT On, 100% of the YouthWorks participants this summer have been matched to roles.
“Businesses must be active participants in solving challenges in the communities in which they operate,” said Michael Castagnola, chief of staff at Baltimore software development consultancy SmartLogic and a steering committee member at Baltimore Tracks. “We cannot solely rely on government or nonprofits to solve social challenges. We need to collaborate across sectors to tackle big challenges. In this case, Baltimore City youth need more access to high paying careers of the future.”
They’re jobs where entry level professionals can make a little under $64,000 a year in the U.S., according to Glassdoor.
“We must continue to build on this cross sector collaboration to build more pathways to careers for Baltimore’s youth,” Scott said. “Which will undoubtedly build a more equitable and thriving city.”
Watch the full press conference below:
Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation.