Promoting diversity is both a challenge and an opportunity for the tech sector as it expands outside Silicon Valley and other traditional tech hubs. One America Works sought the expertise of Dr. Quintin Bullock, President of the Community College of Allegheny County, to learn how education and training programs are supporting tech sector growth in the Pittsburgh region and building pathways of inclusion to retain diverse talent into the sector at the same time.

 

What is the community college doing to attract more diverse students into the tech industry?

Through a number of initiatives, we are developing career pathways in conjunction with K-12 education, community based organizations (CBOs) and industry partners.

The college has launched the Advanced Manufacturing Advisory Council. Participants include representatives from K-12 schools and industry and meet twice a year to discuss the current state of the region, as well as to serve as an incubator that would serve to enhance awareness amongst the sectors and generate ideas as to how all three sectors can best partner. CCAC acts as the bridge between these two entities.  

This past spring we hosted a luncheon series with our region’s local districts and one clear theme that surfaced from the feedback of the superintendents, principals and guidance counselors was the importance of starting early and developing that relationship with students, families, teachers and guidance counselors. So in response to that reality, the college has developed K-12 programming to provide students awareness of career paths. Examples include the Verizon Innovative Learning program for middle school students – this program focuses on coding, robotics and 3D printing. This program focuses on attracting and inspiring inner city African American boys and girls from the surrounding rural communities about STEM opportunities. 

As well, the college has developed and launched academy programming. This includes a dual enrollment focused program designed to bring high school students to CCAC courses and allows students direct interaction with CCAC facilities and faculty. Students also have the ability to utilize the equipment in our labs saving the high schools the cost to invest in equipment.

CCAC has also established new partnerships to expand our training in tech careers.

For example, we are working with Festo, one of the largest makers of industrial equipment and automation technology. CCAC’s faculty and staff has worked with their team to design our labs and ensure the equipment meets the needs of our region in terms of training and skills.

Another new partnership is with the National Coalition of Certification Centers, or NC3, which is focused on manufacturing and technical fields. CCAC is working to become an NC3 leadership center, where we will host training events.

We have also secured a four-year partnership with Johnson Controls to assist in developing programming in the fields of Building Automation Systems, Fire and Safety Controls and Lighting Systems.

And CCAC has joined the first cohort of TalentSprint, a new program supported by Google to assist in developing future programmers. Our students take classes with the TalentSprint team in addition to their CCAC courses that focus on additional tools and techniques that will boost their careers. Our partnership with TalentSprint also includes mentorship opportunities and potential internships with Google.

What programming or efforts have you recently launched to introduce graduates to career opportunities in tech?

We are doing a lot of work in this space but let me focus on three of CCAC’s efforts.

First, we have CCAC’s Workforce Development Initiative, which is focused on the following areas of need in the area of applied technology: advanced manufacturing, automation and robotics, building automation systems, additive manufacturing, and cybersecurity and network administration.

There’s also a new Workforce Center under construction at CCAC Allegheny Campus. The new cutting-edge facility will provide training in additive manufacturing, automation, robotics, building automation systems, cybersecurity and a variety of non-credit training and recognized certifications. The facility is scheduled to open in summer 2024.

Additionally, CCAC is launching new curriculum and workforce development programming with NC3 and other partners. This includes a 3D printing technology program with certification from NC3, a program on soft skills from the Mike Rowe Works Foundation with certification from NC3, and robotic arm programming and operation certifications from NC3, Festo, and Universal Robotics.

What programming or efforts have you recently launched to introduce graduates to career opportunities in tech?

To promote diversity, equity and inclusion across the sector, Pittsburgh tech firms and investors can provide financial support to expand educational programming, summer technology camps, equipment, summer or year-round internships or Learn & Earn programs; and scholarships to support diverse students in a variety of tech programs. These investments would create pathways that would address the longstanding barriers of awareness, access and success.

Tech firms can also participate on one of CCAC’s advisory boards to share in the planning and discussion of activities and educational programming to promote DEI across the region. 

Join One America Works on August 25 for our virtual DEI in Tech round table. Click here to register.
Simon Lomax

Simon Lomax

Research Fellow

About the author: Simon Lomax is a research fellow with One America Works. Based in the Denver Tech Center, he is a former Bloomberg News reporter who has spent more than two decades working in journalism, public policy and cleantech in the U.S. and Australia.