Technology jobs are growing, but for young Detroiters who are unemployed or underemployed, those jobs can be difficult to break into. But a new nationwide training program aims to connect those young adults with the resources and education to land those jobs.
Young adults like Christian Kinsey, who is a part of the inaugural cohort at NPower, a national nonprofit that provides free tech training and professional development for military veterans and young adults from underserved communities.
NPower's Detroit classes began Jan. 21 at its temporary classroom space at Davenport University's New Center campus. After completing the class, students are certified in IT fundamentals. Some of the positions the classes will prepare students for include desktop analyst, business analyst, junior project manager, and data center technician. In addition to those courses, students learn soft skills such as interviewing and code switching in the workplace for a holistic educational experience.
“I’ve always wanted to have a job in IT,” says the 20-year-old Jefferson Chalmers resident. “I've been an intern with the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, as well as Advantage Health Network in the IT department, but it's a hard field to actually break into on your own.” And it’s expensive too. He was going to Morehouse College in Georgia but had to come home because he couldn’t afford the tuition on a valet driver salary. He applied for NPower because he heard it was free and also included a paid internship. He’s a student at Wayne County Community College pursuing an associate degree with the goal of transferring to Wayne State to get a computer science degree.
Demand for tech talent is high. Nationwide, computer and IT jobs are estimated to grow 12 percent from 2018 to 2028, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But Detroit has a ways to go when it comes to talent. It’s one of the reasons why Amazon didn’t put Detroit on the shortlist of 20 cities to consider for its HQ. And according to the 2019 Scoring Tech Talent Scorecard by CBRE Research, Detroit ranked 24th out of 50 U.S. and Canadian markets.
But as far as Camille Walker-Banks, executive director of NPower in Detroit, is concerned the talent is right here.
The former executive director of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, Walker-Banks says, “I'm an economic development professional so I look at the data. And I know that 30% of our population who are here are not being engaged. They fit into this 18- to 25-year-old age group, and they're not getting the access [to jobs and resources]. There is no way to connect them. So the talent is here. They need to be trained and they need to be given an opportunity or a shot. And then I'm going to make the connection to those who think that we don't have the talent here … [The NPower students are] teaching themselves to code. A couple of them have associate's degrees in it but they just can't break into the field.”
One student who hopes to break into the field is Camron Williams. The 20-year-old Bagley resident was studying dermatology at North Central Michigan College in Petoskey but came back last year for health reasons. She was a caregiver for her mother who passed away last June.
Williams signed up with NPower as a way to make her mom proud, while improving her life. She’s interested in architecture or civil engineering.
“[NPower] will push me further,” she says. “I see a future with it and it will take me further while I am in school.”