mayor at the podium in shaft of lightCity leaders from across workforce development, business, education, and government gathered at District Hall in Boston’s Seaport District yesterday to discuss strategies for solving a serious talent shortage in Boston’s local tech industry. But it was hardly talk without teeth. At the forum Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced a $1 million investment – made by the City of Boston’s Neighborhood Jobs Trust, the Boston Foundation, and various private funders – to prepare over 500 residents from diverse backgrounds to fill the region’s tech talent gaps. The Boston Foundation will pledge a further $10 million over five years for training and support in other growth industries ranging from manufacturing to hospitality.

“These investments are known as the American dream,” Walsh said.

Although the Greater Boston tech sector offers ample opportunities for jobs with higher-than-average wages, a recent study found that nearly three-quarters of surveyed firms had experienced difficulty finding qualified IT workers in the last 12 months. The newly announced investment will fund various efforts to address that talent shortage, including:

  • establishment of a new Business Analyst program with Colaberry at Roxbury Community College
  • doubling of summer internships in Boston’s Tech Apprentice program
  • expansion of a Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) program to develop a healthcare IT pathway to Bunker Hill Community College
  • a new Cyber Warrior Academy to help entry-level tech workers upgrade to cyber security analyst positions

Monday’s forum was the third meeting of TechHire Boston, an employer-led industry consortium convened by SkillWorks and the Boston Private Industry Council (PIC) in partnership with the City of Boston to identify solutions to closing the region’s IT skills gap. The June 19th panel discussed the merits of strategies spanning elementary school to adulthood: experiential learning early in the education system, soft skills training, certificate programs, up-front tuition support for low-income college students, and alternate platforms for job candidates to demonstrate skills proficiency to employers.

Much of the conversation focused on diversifying the tech industry as a way both to help businesses capitalize on the region’s untapped talent and to broaden prosperity for city residents. Barely a third of IT workers in the state are female and less than a quarter identify as a racial minority.

“We really need our students to see and experience these jobs,” said Makeeba McCreary, a panelist from Boston Public Schools. “If they don’t see these jobs, they don’t know they exist. They’re so far away.”

One forum attendee, who identified as part of Boston’s Haitian community, reflected that nursing was considered a popular, successful profession in her culture. “But people in my community don’t talk about IT,” she said.

The June 19 TechHire Boston panel included:
Shawn Bohen – National Director for Strategic Growth and Impact at Year Up
Paul Brassil – Vice-President of Information Technology at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston
Makeeba McCreary – Managing Director & Senior Advisor of External Affairs at Boston Public Schools
Jody Rose – Executive Director of New England Venture Capital Association, Co-Founder of Hack/Diversity

Read the press release about Mayor Walsh’s announcement. 

room of seated attendees, panel at the front