By Nancy Dahlberg
We hear it all the time: “Miami doesn’t have enough tech talent.” But is it true? Tech degree and certificate programs are seeing record enrollments, and recent graduates are still leaving South Florida because they don’t think there is opportunity here, even amid an unprecedented migration boom of tech companies and startups since 2020.
It’s this disconnect that brings community partners together to focus on bringing about tech-talent solutions – and they are calling for local employers to get involved. This new initiative is called Miami Tech Works, fueled by a $10 million grant award from the Good Jobs Challenge initiative by the US Economic Development Administration.
Today, the partners are announcing the first phase of Miami Tech Works: Forming the Tech Talent Coalition. This will be an industry-led tech-sector partnership that will bring together a critical mass of business leaders with education and training providers to align academic programs with the needs of the employers. As part of the coalition, employers will drive ongoing discussion regarding common priorities in required skills from tech talent, as well as development of employer-driven training models that guarantee pathways to employment for South Florida’s residents. This is a call to action: Employers can sign up to participate and attend the first meeting Feb. 17 here.
Founding partners are governments, organizations and academic institutions and include Miami-Dade County, City of Miami, Miami-Dade Beacon Council, Refresh Miami, Miami Dade College, Florida International University, OIC of South Florida, Florida Memorial University, CareerSource South Florida, said Antonio Delgado, VP of Innovation and Technology Partnerships for Miami Dade College, who spearheaded the grant to fund Miami Tech Works.
“What Miami needs now is to be able to close that gap between companies looking for talent and the number of talented students and people that we have in Miami that want to get into these high-paying jobs that we see growing in Miami,” Delgado said.
“We want this to be a collective approach, with everyone committing to work on solutions. All the academic institutions are willing to put a stake here to say we are willing to listen and change but we need employers to also listen to academia. We do have talent in Miami and they’re graduating from our programs. We have more enrollment than ever before. Let’s build the trust on both sides, and from there, let’s take it to another level.”
The new Miami Tech Works Director, Terri-Ann Brown, says this is not going to be a coalition of endless talk – it’s for action – and will be professionally facilitated by Lab22c. Brown previously served as the director of community partnerships with The Venture Mentoring Team, a nonprofit that provided support services for over 250 Black and Hispanic owned small businesses, among other community building roles.
For Miami Tech Works, Brown will lead a three-phase project that seeks to provide the local community with a full pathway to employment in the growing Miami Tech ecosystem.
“It’s about creating impactful relationships between employers that are seeking out technology talent and the academic institutions that are training the technology talent to make sure that we’re filling the gaps between what the employers are looking for and what the academic partners are preparing the students for. And then for the talent itself, it’s making sure that we’re tapping into talent that traditionally hasn’t had access to the high paying, high growth potential jobs in technology,” including women, Blacks and Hispanics, Brown said. “It really is a regional approach to developing a tech talent pipeline.”
The first convening of the Tech Talent Coalition will be Feb. 17, and thereafter the coalition will meet once a month and will likely spawn working groups for different industries, Brown said. In the other phases of Miami Tech Works beginning later this year, data from these conversations, as well as broader surveys, focus groups, and learnings from best practices in other cities, will be used to develop or improve training models and create a plan to recruit underserved workers.
Miami Tech Works will then launch a Talent Database, to be hosted on Refresh Miami, where workers can add themselves and be matched with potential opportunities – and that data will also be used to identify skills gaps. “Refresh is excited to work alongside many community partners in ensuring locals have the resources and training they need to land high-paying tech jobs in this city. We want anyone interested in working in tech to have low cost, accessible pathways to these careers,” said Refresh Miami Executive Director Maria Derchi.
There are also plans to develop wrap-around services after hires are made and implement more job placement activities, such as internships, talent town halls, and hiring fairs.
We know there’s an appetite. The Venture Miami Tech Hiring held in November was a show of force that students and employers are interested in narrowing the gap. More than a thousands students and community members turned out for the fair, talking to employers – both South Florida-born companies and new arrivals – at booths long after the fair was over. As part of the Tech Talent Coalition, “together we are working to identify and tackle the hiring gap, ensuring that companies find the right fit for their companies and local professionals find the right opportunity for their teams,” said Venture Miami Executive Director Erick Gavin.
Miami-Dade Beacon Council, a founding partner in Miami Tech Works, is all in, said James Kohnstamm, Executive VP of Economic Development. “I think there’s a great opportunity here. We know what the runway demand of technology is in South Florida and the need for us to develop as much of that talent as possible and create opportunities for our community to benefit from that growth. What we’ve seen is demand that has been strong and then during the early days of Covid it went through the roof for technology and finance.”
The jobs come from pure technology companies like Kaseya or Cyxtera, fast-growing tech startups like Papa, and technology roles within companies such as cruise lines, healthcare companies, and most notably the “huge influx” of finance firms, including Millennium Management, Starwood, Schonfeld, BlackStone, Apollo, Point71, Thoma Bravo and Citadel that represent “many many hundreds of new roles,” Kohnstamm said. In addition, there are venture-backed proptech companies like Belong and Bungalow, Mexican logistics unicorn Nowports and many more companies that recently relocated their HQs here. “We’re having a run, if you will.”
But he said what could limit that growth is our ability to provide talent and the ecosystem to support that growth. “Front of mind in the Miami tech ecosystem is not just transplanting jobs to Miami but how does this become opportunities for the Miami community? And this particular effort is structured just for that.”
Governments, academic institutions and bootcamp partners are already on board.
“Through our participation in this coalition, we look forward to training our community’s students with in-demand tech skills, as well as connecting them to industry internships,” said Bridgette Cram, VP of Innovative Education and Student Success at FIU. “Scaling experiential learning opportunities such as these ensures the future of our talent pipeline and solidifies Miami’s commitments to supporting the current and future technology companies that call this city their home.”
Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava acknowledged the rapidly changing economy requires a tech-savvy workforce: “As a member of the Tech Talent Coalition, Miami-Dade County is working to ensure that our workforce is equipped for the jobs of tomorrow, and that these new opportunities reach every corner of our community.”
Delgado and Brown emphasized that the Tech Talent Coalition is open to anyone, particularly higher-level business leaders of local employers, as long as they are passionate about driving change and seeing the effort succeed for the entire community. What will be the measurement of success? The jobs.
HOW TO GET INVOLVED IN THE TECH TALENT COALITION.
The Tech Talent Coalition Kick Off event will take place on February 17th at the Idea Center at Miami Dade College. Employers can register using this Eventbrite link.
The photo at the top of the post shows the Venture Miami Tech Hiring Fair last fall, in which more than a thousand job seekers turned out. Photo by Miami Dade College
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- BOOM! Miami metro hauls in $5.5B in VC in 2022, a new record, Pitchbook reports
Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg and email her at email@example.com
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