Professional Development
DEI / Delaware / Education / Youth

‘There’s room for everyone to thrive here’: How Yes, We Tech! changed for 2024

From new eligibility to internal restructuring, the summer internship for Delaware high schoolers looks a little different. Its focus on reaching youth from underrepresented backgrounds remains.

Yes, We Tech! interns Alanna Denault, Aditya Kshirsagar and Kori Sampson. (Technical.ly/Holly Quinn)
Full disclosure: The Tech Council of Delaware is a Technical.ly Ecosystem Builder client. That relationship had no impact on this report.
Update: This article has been updated since its initial publication to include a quote from Patrick Best, senior vice president and director of talent acquisition for WSFS Bank. (2/13/2024, 11:39 a.m.) 

When Yes, We Tech!, the TECNA Award-winning New Castle County high school summer internship program, returns for 2024, it will be with some significant changes.

We met with three students in the program, spearheaded by a partnership between the Tech Council of Delaware, Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League and Code Differently, last August. We further learned about the basic day-to-day, which included arriving at the Community Education Building five days a week to meet for breakfast before either going to their paid internships at the company they were paired with or staying for a day of classroom learning.

This year, in response to feedback from the students, the program’s going to more accurately simulate being a part of the workforce. On the three days each week when the students intern at companies like CSC, Buccini Pollin, WSFS Bank or Rodel, they will go straight from home to the workplace — no breakfast or lunch with the group (DART transportation passes will continue to be provided). It’s a more grown-up, realistic arrangement that past participants have suggested could help participants transition out of high school.

Vishakha Jha in navy blazer and white dress shirt in front of grey-blue background.

Vishakha Jha. (Courtesy Tech Council of Delaware)

Administratively, there are a few changes as well. The Tech Council remains the workforce intermediary; The Urban League is the civic engagement partner, supporting professional development through activities like a college tour, job interview skills development and civic engagement education.

Code Differently will be the employer of record, establishing a centralized employer record service and hiring the students, program administrator and training provider.

“The purpose of the program is to invest in Delaware’s youth, our state’s future workforce,” said Vishakha Jha, director of education for the Tech Council’s First State Tech Partnership.  “And we want to ensure that high school students are coming from diverse backgrounds, and they’re supported in building essential technology and durable skills, so that they’re equipped and ready to compete in the labor market for high-wage employment after graduation, from high school and/or college.”

Another change for 2024 is that the cohort will be open to rising seniors only, rather than rising juniors and seniors, as part of the focus on developing adult life skills.

Importantly, while these are tech internships, they’re more about the way people and workplaces in all industries use tech on a day-to-day basis rather than software development. Instead of learning to code, this cohort learns Microsoft Office (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook), levels 1 and 2 of the IC3 Digital Literacy Certification, and soft skills.

“We found that schools were teaching students how to use [spreadsheets] on Google Docs, but when they got to the workplace, the companies used Microsoft Office,” said Zakiyyah Ali, executive director of the Tech Council, explaining why Office has been highlighted as a knowledge gap.

Current 11th-grade students attending New Castle County public and charter schools are encouraged to apply, especially if they come from a demographic that is underrepresented in tech — and even if they don’t think tech is for them.

“We want to be intentional,” said Ali. “We put it in the messaging both to the schools, the teachers and the community organizations that serve young people that we want our Black, African American, Hispanic, Latino and young ladies to apply.”

While Yes We Tech! is currently only available in New Castle County, there are plans to expand: first into Kent County in 2025, and then into Sussex County. The Tech Council is actively looking for Kent County businesses that are interested in not only having a student intern in 2025 but also helping shape the program specifically for central Delaware over the next year.

“High school students need meaningful working experiences to succeed,” said Patrick Best, senior vice president and talent acquisition director for WSFS Bank. “Yes, We Tech! provides a dynamic internship experience that fosters workplace readiness skills and digital proficiency through classroom training and on-the-job, work-based learning. We were proud to partner with them during their inaugural year and are excited to see the program expand into Kent County, where there are many talented students who will benefit from gaining professional exposure and experience.”

Interested companies should fill out the Expansion Project Interest Survey.

“There’s room for everyone to thrive here and be part of the tech ecosystem,” Jha said.

Companies: Tech Council of Delaware / WSFS / Code Differently
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