A Pittsburgh nonprofit hopes bringing digital skills to the local LGBTQ community will reduce inequality in the city.
True T PGH is a community arts and wellness center on a mission to help Pittsburgh’s LGBTQ population survive and thrive. Since its founding in 2010, the org has offered resources such as healthcare, workshops, an emergency housing program and advocacy.
For years, the org’s leaders wanted to make teaching digital skills part of the True T PGH’s programming in order to ensure the people they serve have marketable skills, Co-Executive Director Duane Binion told Technical.ly. Thanks to a new partnership with Google, that goal is finally feasible.
“I think this is something that we always wanted to do. However, being a smaller, Black-led, gay organization, we don’t have the funding that Google does,” Binion said. “So Google will help to make that realistic. And I do believe that the partnership is genuine — I feel like they really are just trying to uplift the community. And that has always kind of been our role.”
Google has held court in Pittsburgh’s tech economy since 2006, when the Silicon Valley tech giant moved in thanks to a Carnegie Mellon University connection, and later transformed Bakery Square with its own local office in 2011. Since then, it’s confirmed its commitment to the city and state via hiring — Google Pittsburgh counted 800 employees as of January 2023 — and millions in investment. That includes groups like Black Tech Nation, and now, True T PGH.
The partnership came to be through a connection between True T PGH and Allegheny County Councilmember David Bonaroti, previously a business development manager for Google. As a supporter of the organization, Bonarati connected the organization to Google at a time when the tech giant was looking to bring more opportunities to Black and brown youth as well as the LGBTQ community, Binion said.
The result was the partnership that allowed True T PGH to launch True T EDU, a program welcoming up to 50 participants to learn skills that could help them enter the tech sector. After completing the free six-month program, participants will receive certificates in areas such as cybersecurity, digital marketing, ecommerce, IT support, data analytics and project management.
Tech training with accessibility in mind
True T PGH has already chosen True T EDU’s first cohort members, and the inaugural class begins in February. Should all go according to plan, program leaders look forward to welcoming another 50 cohort members down the line.
True T PGH Co-Executive Director John Easter stressed that the program is designed to be as accessible as possible. This means the org did not make previous tech experience and or even a high school diploma a requirement to apply. The reasoning: Don’t make people who could most benefit from an updated set of job skills feel dismayed from trying to acquire them. Normally, vocational programs require experience and a diploma or financial cost. By removing those barriers, Easter and Binion say they’re hoping to level the playing field.
“We really want to help the folks who would never think that they have access to stuff like this,” Easter said. “And so if people work 10 hours a week on their stuff, they will be done within six months and will gain that certificate.”
Aside from an in-person orientation on Feb. 2, the program will be largely virtual in order to make it easier for program participants to balance their learning with other obligations.
“There are in-person portions of this program and we’ll have monthly in-person check-ins, but the actual scheduling and workload, that is virtual,” Binion said. “So people can kind of adapt that to their lifestyle needs [because] we understand that most people have full-time jobs and or [are] in school, or whatever life is starting.”
In the long run, both Easter and Binion say they hope this program helps members of their community be able to not just survive, but thrive in the world.
“We’re just really proud that we’re able to introduce this to our people because nobody else is doing this right now, for us,” Easter said. “This is just our baby right now. [We] are very happy to be able to do it.”Atiya Irvin-Mitchell is a 2022-2023 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 Heinz Endowments.
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