Scaling the impact and a deep data analysis are ahead for Miami Tech Works’ year 2

By Nancy Dahlberg

Training at least a thousand people from Miami’s underrepresented communities for careers in technology in the next couple of years is a big goal, but together, a coalition laser-focused on the mission has proven Miami is up to the challenge. 

As Miami Tech Works and its innovative Miami Tech Talent Coalition enter year two, they took an opportunity to celebrate a productive first year and set the stage for what’s coming next: a strategic push to scale up the impact, backed by a thorough data analysis. 

For those not involved (yet), Miami Tech Works is backed by a $10 million grant over three years from the Biden Administration’s Good Jobs Challenge program to fuel Miami’s tech talent pipeline by creating new pathways for the county’s underserved population and connecting them with programs to learn, upskill and reskill. The Miami Tech Talent Coalition is an unprecedented collaboration of employers, academia and community organizations to do just that. 

Nearly 200 community members turned out for the 1-year anniversary event at Miami Dade College’s Chapman Conference Center last week. Terri-Ann Brown, Grant Director for Miami Tech Works, shared that although the grant period ends in 2025, the goal is to create sustainable programs and processes that will fuel the pipeline for years to come.  

The Miami Tech Talent Coalition can facilitate those connections to fuel the pipeline, but “we need employers, academic institutions and community organizations around the table being open and honest about what Miami has in terms of assets, challenges and opportunities… and that’s what Miami Tech Works and the Tech Talent Coalition is here to do,” said Brown.

Terri-Ann Brown, Grant Director of Miami Tech Works

First up, checking in on progress: In the past year, the Miami Tech Talent Coalition’s four working groups with 251 members have had 42 meetings and participated in five community-wide gatherings to share insights and challenges. But it wasn’t just talk. Several pilot projects were launched, tested and scaled successfully, including four sprinternships, and students were connected with technical assistance workshops and skills training at universities or bootcamps by BrainStation and 4Geeks Academy. Community organizations such as OIC of South Florida and United Way have helped to provide wraparound services – think bus fare or gas cards, daycare help, technology or pre-training programs – to remove barriers to undergoing the training. The efforts have already resulted in internships and jobs.

The aim is to ultimately train 1,000 people for tech jobs and place at least 500 of them in good jobs. A “good job” exceeds the local prevailing wage for an industry in the region, includes basic benefits and helps the employee develop the skills and experiences necessary to advance along a career path. In year one, 551 students and community members are undergoing training through the program. Of those, 137 have completed the training, and so far, four of them have been placed in full-time jobs and 47 have been placed in internships, Brown said. 

Tracking is key. CompTIA, a trade organization, reported last month that job postings increased in the Miami area. “We need to connect local talent to those jobs.  Miami Tech Works is gearing up for the next year of activities, which will include partnering with the Venture Miami Hiring Fair and Talent Summit as well as creating more engagement  opportunities for employers and those seeking opportunities in tech,” Brown said after the event.

To that end, ongoing data analysis will prove out whether the region is bridging the gap and that there is the readiness to make that happen from both sides – employer and future employee, she said. The Miami Tech Talent Coalition’s partners – Florida International University, Florida Memorial University, MIami Dade College, OIC of South Florida, BrainStation and 4Geeks Academy  – are readying students for the Venture Miami Tech Hiring Fair April 4 on MDC’s Wolfson Campus that typically attracts dozens of employers. 

Caryn Lavernia, facilitator for the Miami Tech Talent Coalition and Vice President of Lab22c, said this first year was about creative collisions and proving out quick credential programs, but phase two will be a shift to more focused and strategic work. For instance, she said, that could mean strategically bringing to the table employers who are ready to hire, a couple of universities and talent providers, and community organizations that can help lift barriers to employment. 

“This city is a miracle in and of itself and we have it in our power to create a sustainable place where people can get amazing tech jobs,” Lavernia said. 

Year two will also be about data analysis, and Miami Tech Works hired Thomas P. Miller & Associates for that. TPMA’s work will encompass a detailed environmental scan and skill gap analysis, focusing on labor market trends, industry needs, and the development of strategies to bridge the tech talent gap, ensuring a robust pipeline for Miami’s tech sector evolution. “We will also be conducting  economic impact research, which is an examination of local academic programs and the economic impacts of tech jobs including mapping career pathways,” said Sheena Johns, database reporter and analyst for Miami Tech Works.

The new data analysis will include the assets and investment in skill-based training, industry certifications, and educational credentials that lead to tech jobs to understand the current landscape of tech talent development. “The gap analysis is going to be critical for understanding and correcting the disparities in training and certifications in underrepresented groups in the workforce,” Johns said, and the goal is to identify skill gaps and include recommendations for upskilling, reskilling, and enhanced talent development.

The anniversary event featured panels on several important topics. We will address those over the coming months, as we bring you deeper stories on ways the Miami Tech Talent Coalition has been lowering barriers by providing wraparound services and how micro-internships, internships and apprenticeships can help students get real-world experience. We’ll also bring you some success stories.

In the meantime, Brown has a call to action: 

“If you are an employer that has the potential to hire tech talent, we want you to get involved. We are removing that barrier of ‘but we can’t find tech talent here or talent doesn’t exist’ – we’ve debunked that. We know that between micro-internships, internships and apprenticeships, we can craft the solution for you. If you want to mentor a tech student, we also have the opportunity for you to do that as well. I am so excited about what we have accomplished, and I’m even more excited about what’s to come.”

You can keep up with what is going on through Refresh Miami or on Miami Tech Works’ LinkedIn and Instagram pages. There is also a new website under development – miamitechworks.org

To conclude the 1-Year Celebration event, the organization honored its workgroup chairs – Ken Finneran & Charles Irizarry (Emerging Tech Talent workgroup); Olga Naumovich (Tech Skills Gap workgroup); Reginald Andre (Small Business Capacity Building workgroup); and Toia Santamarina & Selenis Leguisamon (Inclusive Tech Talent Pipeline workgroup) – and handed out awards to partners for their exceptional involvement the past year. They are:

  • Tech Community Engagement: INIT
  • Tech Industry Partnership Excellence: UKG 
  • Tech Industry Partnership Excellence: FIU
  • Innovative Tech Curriculum: Miami Dade College
  • Tech Talent Pipeline: Ken Finneran of eMed 
  • Career Connection Champion: Paul Polo of Human Cloud
  • Diversity in Tech: Toia Santamarina of GET Cities

READ MORE IN REFRESH MIAMI:

Nancy Dahlberg