Philadelphia-based Tech Impact has been active in Wilmington with its ITWorks workforce development program for a decade now. Cohorts of the program, made up of adults aged 18 to 26 who are out of school, underemployed and without a degree, have thus far met in rented spaces for classes that would propel 85% of them into full time IT positions.
It worked, but, after years of making an impact in the city, it was time to find a permanent home for ITWorks Wilmington. They didn’t need much — classroom space, a conference room, some cubicles for administrators.
The former B&O Station on the Riverfront, a 3,400-square-foot building that was previously a Capital One building — restored by ING DIRECT for its riverfront hub before that — was a perfect fit. The two-story former train station designed by Frank Furness is just the right size, and its location near the new Delaware State University building and CSC Station places it right in the middle of one of the city’s most vital developing areas.
Tech Impact partner Barclays US Consumer Bank, headquartered on the Riverfront just minutes away by foot from B&O Station, supported the purchase with a $1.25 million grant, which included funding for renovations such as new paint, carpeting and desks for students. The finished project is called the Tech Impact Opportunity Center supported by Barclays, with its official ribbon cutting held Oct. 1.
While Barclays’ ongoing financial support has been vital to the success of the ITWorks program in Wilmington, Tech Impact Executive Director Patrick Callihan stresses that the bank does more than support it financially.
“Barclays provides financial support for IT Works, so that the young people who come through our program to train are going through at no cost,” Callihan told Technical.ly. “That’s important. But beyond that, they contribute ton of other support — hours and hours of volunteer support, mentoring, soft skill training, interview workshops.”
Jennifer Cho, head of citizenship and community relations at Barclays, said the hands-on involvement of its employees with ITWorks is part of her company’s culture, and its commitment to workforce development.
“It’s really nice to be able to see the [the new ITWorks building] be brought to life,” she said. “Our colleagues take part in this partnership, they’re running sessions, interview workshops, etc. It makes working at Barclays such a special place.”
Barclays has hired ITWorks graduates into its offices, but its focus is on getting people into the workforce as a whole, not just to recruit people.
“We’re hoping to get about a quarter million people to work by 2022, globally, through our workforce programs,” Cho said.
For now, the fall cohort of ITWorks is in full swing, with 18 students following a hybrid model that includes a couple of days a week in the classroom and a couple of days a week remote. The program has historically has two cohorts a year, but that could grow now.
Tech Impact’s increased presence in Delaware is coming with new partnerships and opportunities: It just announced a merger with the Delaware Data innovation Lab (DDIL) that positions DDIL as a division of Tech Impact, for one. The org has also partnered with tech training program Code Differently and they’re about to announce the details of a grant from the state that will focus on training people underrepresented in IT and tech.
“It really is an exciting time to connect folks to the [tech] market,” said Callihan.-30-