#CelebratingProgress Launching Youth Into Tech Careers


By: Dannyelle Austin 

According to CompTIA’s State of the Tech Workforce, there were 3.6 million tech job openings posted in the US in 2021, a number that is projected to grow at double the national jobs rate. The rapid growth of these relatively high-paying job opportunities, however, has historically largely benefitted only certain groups of jobseekers. In Philadelphia , only 9% of all tech workers identify as Black, 4% as LatinX, and 26% as women. This diversity gap is especially noticeable in major cities like Philadelphia where more than half the population identify as Black or LatinX. As employers are struggling to find skilled workers to fill high-paying, family sustaining tech jobs, there are thousands of highly capable individuals who lack access to these opportunities.

Unfortunately, structural, systemic, and financial inequities in our educational system have created barriers to entering the tech industry for Philadelphia youth. As a result, they are unprepared to make informed decisions about their futures and what technical skills training they need to compete for these roles. Even when young people are driven to pursue careers in high-paying industries like tech, they are too often denied access to them due to a lack of a college degree, a lack of the requisite technical skills, and/or a professional network that can help open doors and mentor them once they land the role. It is essential that students are aware of career choices, like engineering and STEM makerspace, that can help them raise their socioeconomic status shared one teacher in a recent ASA case study.

Community led efforts like Computer Science Education Week, occurring December 5th – December 11th, were created to address these kinds of challenges. #CSEdWeek is an “annual call to action to inspire K-12 students to learn computer science, advocate for equity, and celebrate the contributions of students, teachers, and partners to the field.” The #CSEdWeek theme for 2022 is #CelebratingProgress. One example of the progress to be celebrated is Launchpad, a new initiative from Building 21.

Launchpad is a new initiative that seeks to “blur the lines” between K-12 systems, higher education, and workforce development programs to build rigorous, career-connected pathways to good jobs with upward mobility in growing industries. We equip students with the credentials, skills, mindsets, and experience to thrive in their new careers. Through a learn-and-earn model, students jumpstart their futures with technical training, work experience, coaching, and college credits. Given our focus on eliminating barriers to participate in the 21st century economy, Launchpad has no cost to participants and students receive financial compensation throughout the program.

Launchpad is a new initiative that seeks to “blur the lines” between K-12 systems, higher education, and workforce development programs…

Dannyelle Austin

We are #CelebratingProgress of young people in Philadelphia who showed up during Launchpad’s recruitment season. For our inaugural cohort, we received 98 applications for a total of 45 spots. In the words of one of our applicants, “technology has been a passion for me since childhood. The possibilities that come from technology amaze me so much that I want to know everything about it. I am looking for new things constantly and I am learning coding on my own already but there are many more things to know. Starting a career in tech is a great goal for me and the Launchpad program would be a huge help.” Another student shared, “I am interested in Launchpad because I believe that it will give me the necessary skills to do what I am passionate about and to be something I’m proud of being, especially as a young black male.”

Launchpad is joining #CSEdWeek and #CelebratingProgress as we congratulate the next generation of tech leaders and innovators on Thursday December 8th at our community night celebration for accepted students and their families.  For more information about Launchpad, visit our website at www.launchpadphilly,org and follow us on social media @launchpadphilly.

Dannyelle Austin is the Executive Director of Launchpad.

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