Miami Tech Talent Coalition kicks off initial programs to prime the talent pipeline

Networking at the Miami Tech Talent Coalition

South Florida employers are encouraged to join the coalition. Let’s take a look at projects in the works.

Executives hailing from about 100 South Florida companies, plus leaders from universities, colleges, tech training bootcamps and community organizations, joined the Miami Tech Talent Coalition (powered by Miami Tech Works) earlier this year and broke up into four work groups, each one tasked with coming up with ways to prime the tech talent pipeline in response to the unprecedented growth our Miami Tech ecosystem has experienced in the past three years. 

Initially, the broader group came up with several big goals including providing new opportunities for talent in emerging industries, providing a talent pipeline and technology for small businesses, and making sure there are plentiful opportunities for our diverse talent. For the past six months, the work groups have been meeting and collaborating, including gathering data from academic institutions, surveys and interviews, with one big mission in mind: To create a better Miami.

To meet these goals, the working groups came up with pilot projects that were announced on Thursday.

Feel the energy in this room, Terri-Ann Brown, who is leading Miami Tech Works, told the crowd of over 100 people at Kaseya’s offices at 777 Brickell on Thursday morning. Brown reported that the Miami Tech Works team has expanded to support the massive effort, which is funded by a three-year, $10 million grant from the US government. “The bulk of that $10 million in funding is going to go toward providing training opportunities for those students and community members who are looking for opportunities through academic institutions or boot camp providers,” Brown said.

Terri-Ann Brown, Director of Miami Tech Works

“We know that right now Miami Dade College has over 1,000 people registered for their cybersecurity programs and Kaseya is establishing great SOC internship programs here in Miami. We already know that UKG set a tremendous goal of hiring 200 intern software engineers. And we also know that we’ve had great companies that want to reskill and upskill their existing employees and that AI is the future,” Brown continued. She asked the crowd to spread the word amongst employers struggling to find talent. “There’s no cost to the employer and you’ve got a whole team that’s going to walk them through that process.” 

Joe Smolarski, COO of Kaseya, talked about how this software company with 5,000 employees globally has been partnering with local colleges and universities for years. The company has committed to adding over 3,000 employees in Miami-Dade County in the next few years. 

“When I got here four years ago, we had 60 people in Miami. Today we’re at 1,500 and we’re not going to be stopped,” Smolarski said. “Our mission is to change the world and Miami is at the heart of everything that we do.”

Kaseya has a grow your own philosophy. Kaseya wants to be the first or second job for today’s students and recent graduates and they invest heavily in their training and development. “We’ve hired over 1,000 people directly from the universities,” Smolarski said. “Something like 93% of our leadership comes directly from the ground level and that’s what we’re about.”

Joe Smolarski, Chief Operating Officer of Kaseya

In time, more than half of Kaseya’s global base will be in the Miami metro area, Smolarski predicted. “We are the number one tech company in South Florida. We believe you have to come to the office and when you’re 22 years old you’re going to develop so much better just learning around other people versus sitting at home in your pajamas. We have the inner strength to push that and say, ‘this is how we’re going to win’.”

Fred Voccola took over as Kaseya’s CEO in 2015 and officially relocated the global company’s HQ to Miami in 2018. During that time, that company has grown annual revenue from about $80 million to about $2 billion today, Smolarski said. “We will be one of the top 10 software companies in the world.”

Antonio Delgado, Vice President of Innovation and Technology Partnerships at Miami Dade College, reminded the South Florida employers in the room of the opportunity the coalition presents them, at a time when the national hiring picture in tech is not nearly as sunny.

 “You guys here are growing in Miami, we see it. The good news is this delegation connects you with all the institutions, FIU, Miami Dade College, Ironhack, 4Geeks, BrainStation, Florida Memorial, Barry, Northeastern, our newest entrant, you name it, they are all represented,” Delgado said. “We’re all at the same table. This room is full of  people who believe in this opportunity to create a better Miami.” 

Adds Brown: We’re not just using this funding in traditional ways. We’re thinking differently. We’re applying it differently.” To that end, here is a rundown of the Tech Talent Coalition’s first projects: 

EMERGING TECH TALENT WORK GROUP

Chairs: Charles Irizarry, BRIM & Company; Ken Finneran, eMed

Membership: 82.

Pilot project: Members are developing an AI apprenticeship model for early talent to become skilled in applied artificial intelligence for enterprises.

Finneran shared that his company, eMed, already uses an apprenticeship-styled program successfully and is excited about one focused on Applied AI that is the initial project of the Emerging Tech Talent Work Group. It aims to create a pathway to jobs in the emerging industry through real-world AI education via projects or micro-internships, internships and apprenticeships. “The resources, the partners, the funding is available to companies who are willing to create those pathways. I would encourage more employers to get involved.” 

The opportunity for Miami in AI is immense, said Irizarry. “We’re rich in industry, we’re rich in GDP, we’re rich in AI use cases. I want Miam to be a capital of Applied AI. We have partners that are ready and hungry to move forward. All we are missing now are employers who want to evolve in the age of AI and we want to help you do that. This is a first of its kind AI program that will get students hands-on with business challenges.”

Adds Brown: “We’re currently we’re looking at almost 200 AI students that are in the pipeline. They’re going to work on a capstone project for you. And by the time those students graduate with their AI certification, they’re going to be ready to be deployed into your workforce because they’ve already worked on a solution for you over six months, maybe a year.” 

INCLUSIVE TECH TALENT WORK GROUP

Chairs: Toia Santamarina, GET Cities; Selenis Leguisamon, AWS
Membership: 60 members.
Pilot projects:

  • “Curriculum” for enterprises to quickly implement new structures and processes within the hiring life cycle that ensures inclusivity from the job announcement through the job offer.
  • Hiring Day event where all of the structures in the curriculum are implemented by employers with job openings, and the life cycle – from announcement to contingent job offer – are implemented in an 8-hour event.

Caryn Lavernia, a senior partner of Lab22c and facilitator for Miami Tech Works, shared a summary of what the group is working on because the chairs are traveling. “Data points this group worked with include that Miami is the most racially and culturally diverse tech talent pipeline in the US, however we are one of the worst when it comes to women in tech careers.”  What’s more, she said, Miami is a small business community, and the group wants more of them to benefit, she said.

This working group has been testing a new curriculum for employers that helps them with setting up inclusive-hiring processes and best practices and shared the plans for their hiring day event. “We’re targeting groups that have been left behind by our local tech movement. If you would like to get involved with this group, you can email [email protected] and we will get you involved,” Lavernia said. 

Brown adds: “We know that your workforce becomes much more productive when you have diversity of thought, diversity of experience, diversity of people. This workgroup is creating that roadmap for you as an employer that makes it much easier for you to implement those practices in your workforce.”

TECH SKILLS GAP WORK GROUP

Chair: Olga Naumovich, Millennium Management
Membership: 67 members.

Pilot project: Members are developing a rapid re-skilling/upskilling effort for developers that are focused on hard tech skills like C++, Python, Java. This pilot will be enterprise focused with up to five employers participating.

“Our workgroup has been working on identifying what is the education level skill sets coming out of universities and colleges versus what employers need — and what the actual gap is,” Naumovich announced at Thursday’s meeting. “We identified the areas we’d like to work on. The more employers we have, the more successful our efforts are going to be.”

Brown gave an example using software engineering, one of the most in demand positions here in South Florida. “Consistently, what we tend to see is C++ [education] is most often requested, about 30% of the time, but it only shows up about 3% of the time in the [local] job descriptions. Why is that? Is that a much-needed skill now and do we need to upskill your existing workforce for C++? Or maybe it’s Java or Python of dot-net? We are going to have a survey up and we’d love for you to share that amongst your network with other employers. Let’s find out what are the much-needed skills in that tech skills gap area so that our academic institutions and training bootcamp providers can respond to that need,” Brown said. Local employers should fill out the tech skills gap survey here.

SMALL BUSINESS CAPACITY BUILDING WORK GROUP

Chair: Reginald Andre, Ark Solvers
Membership: 44 members.
Pilot project: In partnership with Parker-Dewey, the working group has launched a micro-internship program that will allow local students the opportunity to work on digital transformation or tech projects for local small businesses. Students may work one-on-one with small businesses or work on case teams on 15-hour projects that meet critical tech needs of our small business community. 

Reginald Andre of Ark Solvers raised his hand for this work group because running a small business himself, he found he had to start hiring tech talent from outside the state and even the country because the students and recent graduates he was interviewing did not yet have the skillsets he needed as a small business to command the salaries they expected of about $70,000. He’s willing to work with the recent hires to get them there, but they can’t wait. The project the working group came up with will connect students with tech-focused micro-internship opportunities at as many small businesses as possible. They get more real-world experience while they are in school in projects in web development, web updates, CRM, API integration and other fully customizable projects. 

“If you are a small business that needs to integrate technology or upgrade technology, this is a free program funded by the DeLuca Foundation that connects you with students for these projects. Tech students get the hands-on experience of working on micro internships and by the way those tech students are getting paid,” Brown added.

How to get involved in the Miami Tech Talent Coalition

Your involvement can make a significant difference in shaping the future of Miami’s tech industry, creating a vibrant and sustainable tech talent ecosystem. Together, participants can continue to build Miami as an innovative hub and a desirable destination for businesses and tech talent.

  • Join the Coalition here. Employers can also specify a work Group they are interested in. 
  • Save the date: The next in-person meeting is scheduled for Oct. 12.
  • Stay connected with the coalition’s progress and updates by signing up for their newsletter here, reviewing their website here, and following Miami Tech Works on LinkedIn and Instagram.

“There’s still a lot of work to do but we’re all in this together and these are small pilots that can scale,” said Lavernia of Lab22c. “As someone who was born and raised in this community, I have not seen this level of collaboration probably since Hurricane Andrew. This has been an amazing collaboration.” 

READ MORE ABOUT THE TECH TALENT COALITION:

Nancy Dahlberg