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Internet technology continues to increase in importance in a wide range of industries, especially with the expansion of its use in healthcare. The Delaware Prosperity Partnership is aiming to develop a coordinated and demand-driven approach to IT talent, retraining residents and upskilling IT workers and expanding IT career opportunities for youth.

Delaware Prosperity Partnership (DPP) recently completed a strategic plan to support a more diverse tech talent pipeline in Delaware, with support from JPMorgan Chase.

DPP partnered with 50 stakeholders representing Delaware businesses, nonprofits, education and workforce development organizations to launch a statewide strategy to build a more diverse, inclusive and highly qualified tech talent pipeline in Delaware for 2021 and beyond.

In addition to a rigorous review of labor market and hiring data, the research, representatives said, involved interviewing various populations — including under-served individuals, justice-involved citizens, people re-entering the workforce, etc. — to understand the pain points and get firsthand experiences to inform the strategy. Focus groups were also conducted with employers and training providers who work with diverse and low-income populations, organizations supporting justice-involved citizens and employers that intentionally reach out to underserved populations for hiring.

According to DPP, the key to its success will be public/private partnership toward developing a coordinated and demand-driven approach to information technology (IT) talent, retraining residents and upskilling IT workers and expanding IT career opportunities for youth.

“Delaware has a world-class science and technology workforce,” said Gov. John Carney. “This partnership with JPMorgan Chase, Delaware businesses, nonprofits and education organizations will build on that advantage and prepare even more Delawareans to compete for jobs of the future. This pipeline project is part of a larger effort in Delaware to invest in our workforce, attract new business investment and make Delaware an even better place to live, work and raise a family.”

The work toward the strategy began in 2019, when DPP received a philanthropic investment from JPMorgan Chase to develop the plan as part of JPMorgan Chase’s $350 million global commitment to prepare under-served youth and adults for the future of work.

“As our economy continues to change, we know that we must also change the way we train people, so they’re able to compete for well-paying careers,” said Tom Horne, Delaware market leader for JPMorgan Chase. “We’re proud to work with Delaware Prosperity Partnership — their plan will help to advance career pathways, promote inclusive economic growth in Delaware and strengthen the support system that prepares our residents for jobs of the future.”

Delaware Prosperity Partnership’s strategy addresses three key factors identified in a landscape analysis of the current IT pipeline:

  • IT needs remain a key concern for Delaware employers, with IT jobs needed at all levels (entry to highly specialized) across IT domains (software, networks, cyber security, data management and tech support).
  • Changing skills and the accelerated digitization of the economy in the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbate bottlenecks in IT hiring.
  • Greater focus on upskilling those already in the workforce and continued expansion of education pathways are needed to address IT talent needs.

IT talent supports an array of industries in Delaware, they noted. Two-third of IT jobs are found outside the traditional “tech” sector in areas of finance, healthcare, manufacturing, education and government. From August 2019 to July 2020 alone, Delaware averaged more than 4,000 IT job postings and 474 hires per month. Nearly three-quarters of Delaware IT workers are male, almost 60 percent are white and nearly a quarter are Asian. Black and Latinx talent currently fill only about 15 percent of IT jobs.

Delaware enjoys a widely recognized IT talent pipeline, with more than 17,000 jobs filled by IT professionals, and degrees in computer science and information technology rising by about 20 percent over the last two years. Yet more IT talent is needed to create a competitive advantage, DPP representatives said. The plan guides future IT workers through five stages of career preparation:

  • Career Awareness: Promotes career info, pathways, structures and routes to career advancement.
  • Interest & Exploration: Helps diverse populations easily access ways to explore IT careers and interests and connect with other diverse workers in IT.
  • Training & Education: Reflects the education and training needs of youth and adults.
  • Career Entry: Helps workers from underrepresented populations find IT jobs and feel valued.
  • Career Advancement: Highlights clear pathways for career advancement and peer support and builds a sense of community within IT occupations.

“Delaware Prosperity Partnership’s inclusive tech talent strategy enhances the competitiveness of Delaware industries and creates career opportunities in IT for people of all backgrounds,” said Rod Ward III, president and CEO of Wilmington-based CSC and co-chair of the DPP Board of Directors.

According to the DPP, key to the success of this rollout will be Delaware’s ability to align state policies and resources to accelerate the impact of the IT talent strategy. The strategy proposes establishing an employer training tax credit and establishing a work share program that uses unemployment insurance for part-time layoffs so employers can hold on to key employees and use reduced workloads to provide needed training.

It also proposes that dislocated workers receive unemployment when training for a high-demand occupation and that working adults receive credit for skills training provided by the state’s public institutions. In terms of ongoing industry-workforce connections, the strategy proposes that the state’s workforce board partner with industry to fund and support sector councils and strategies, advocates for programs that integrate wrap-around services with training to increase access for low-income residents and encourages policies that also help justice-involved citizens gain skills that will lead to and employment.

“There are a lot of exciting things going in on Delaware, and this tech talent pipeline plan to place opportunities in front of people who may not yet even know that a tech career could be in their future is one of them,” said Kurt Foreman, president and CEO of DPP, which is itself a public/private partnership. “We are very thankful to JPMorgan Chase for having the heart and vision to seek out partners in our community to help more Delawareans have access to opportunities in Delaware’s robust tech talent pipeline.”