The Urban Tech Jobs Program Is Preparing Thousands In Our Communities For Jobs Of The Future

by Marc H. Morial 

(Trice Edney Wire) – Hundreds of members of the Urban League community have embarked on new careers in technology and thousands more are on the path, three years into a major partnership with Google and the Tides Foundation that launched or expanded the Urban Tech Jobs Program in 11 local affiliates. Urban Tech Jobs Program features a multi-layered approach that includes technology awareness, basic skill building, digital literacy, technology job training and upskilling for workers currently in the technology field.  

The Google/Tides partnership, layered over existing workforce, integrated case management, and wrap around services, allowed the National Urban League to launch Digital Training Academies or Tech Academies, depending upon each community’s needs.

The first year of the program centered on community engagement that resulted in broad community digital divide discussions, the creation of Program Design Committees composed of key stakeholders, and the development of digital and tech training curriculum.

In year two, Urban League affiliates began implementing the new curriculums under Digital Training Academy and Tech Academy.

Now, at the end of year three, the program has exceeded benchmarks for job placements, productivity software training and basic skills training, and has become a model for expansion into other Urban League affiliates and create new curriculums for the jobs of the future being created by the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

More than 400 participants have been placed in jobs, more than 2,500 have received skills training, and nearly 10,000 have been made aware of the opportunities available in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

The Austin Area Urban League Tech and Career Academy is an approved Texas Workforce Commission Career School & College and a Texas Workforce Solutions Training Partner, offering diverse pathways to obtain training and certifications for traditional and nontraditional technology careers.

Chicago Urban League’s Drone Academy  — the first of its kind in the city of Chicago — was made possible by a partnership with oil and gas company BP plc and MySkaut Urban Air Mobility. Drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), are aircraft without a human pilot, crew, or passengers on board.  Federal aviation regulations require operators to be licensed. The Academy has provided not only the necessary training for the license, but also drones for hands-on experience.

The Urban Leagues of Greater Atlanta, Palm Beach County, Broward County, and Metropolitan St. Louis created Digital Training curriculums to provide a pathway to tech careers through:

  • Digital Inclusion: Equipping individuals, families, and community partners with the necessary tools and resources to connect to the internet and use it proficiently.
  • Exploration: Teaching participants the skills s needed to increase competency and confidence in technology, as well as spark interest in careers in technology and prepared them to the jobs of the future.
  • Digital skills in Workforce: Instilling participants with the technology skills needed to secure and sustain employment stay relevant in a changing marketplace or teach the technology skills needed to start a business.

One important lesson the Urban League community has learned throughout this three-year process is that STEM careers must be redefined. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and other initiatives have identified a variety of new technology jobs, creating a need for new trainings and curriculum to make sure that Black and Brown communities have access to affordable certifications to support both manufacturing and professional jobs of the future. These fields range from renewable energy generation and electrical vehicle manufacturing to cybersecurity and broadband infrastructure.