Everyone has seen and heard the media stories, government and tech leaders talk about the tech sector — and STEM jobs in particular — is the fastest-growing employment sector in the United States. And yet, the most recent GAO study of diversity in tech reports that although the estimated percentage of minority technology workers increased from 2005 to 2015, no growth occurred for female and Black workers, even though Asian and Latino workers made statistically significant increases. In fact, the GAO report shows that female, Black, and Hispanic workers remain a smaller proportion of the technology workforce — mathematics, computing, and engineering occupations — compared to their representation in the general workforce. (See http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-18-69).
At Hack the Hood we prepare low-income young people of color to learn and use skills and training in real work environments that support them in being part of the 21st century tech economy — as workers and entrepreneurs. Our strong pathways take young folks on a non-traditional track from bootcamps into coding and digital marketing classes, 1:1 coaching, career assessment, and career readiness workshops. Young people utilize new skillsets to move from these programs into better paying jobs and/or placement in strong career pathways with a growing set of partners including Adobe Digital Academy/General Assembly, Code Berkeley Front End Design Bootcamp at Berkeley City College, Youth Impact Hub, and Year Up.
This focus made it especially rewarding to participate the in the end of year class Artificial Intelligence and UX Showcase presentations at Code Berkeley Front End Design Bootcamp this week and see one of our Hack the Hood members present his team’s program at NEXTSpace in Berkeley.
At 25, our student, who is a father of two, has just completed his first semester in college, studying UI/UX design, product development and, yes, coding. This young man decided to go to Berkeley City College to study coding when his Hack the Hood career assessment workshop convinced him that “to really do this work I love, I needed more training.” His curiosity drove him to ask lots of questions, and he found a community of teachers and learners, who welcomed a chance to discuss skills and ideas.
The class, a coding and product development focused on mobile application/coding/UIUX program, gave students a chance to research, design, and prototype a product that solved an interesting problem. Team members built a prototype for a mobile pictionary game that allowed users to use a touchscreen to draw simple images in real time on their phones that other players could guess. To get to the product vision, they — like all the students in the class — came up with a concept, did a SWOT analysis and a study of competitors, did use case and user research, created personas, and then used tools like Sketch to prototype their product. Final presentations took the audience from concept to prototype, sharing concept docs, design research, persons and detailed interface and user flow.
I can’t begin to share how exciting it felt to be in a small group, with a diverse range of students and faculty — industry professionals — who supported them — and see these students doing the same kind of work I’ve done in my career planning and designing products for companies including Advance Internet, America Online, Netscape, and Yahoo!
When we talk about equipping students with skills for the future, this is exactly what we need — supportive environments where people can safely and confidently work with teams to master new concepts, try them out, master them and then build on what they have learned. The portfolio of work I saw from our young man and his team — as well as from other students’ projects — were exactly the kinds of experiences I looked for in hiring staff back in the day.
For Hack the Hood, and the hundred’s of youth developers we work with, our partnership with Code Berkeley Front End Design Bootcamp pathway holds huge promise. A pathway into more advanced tech training, coached by industry professionals, close to home and offered with work-friendly scheduling while providing high-quality industry skills, is exactly what we need for young people seeking entry in fields where they have been shut out of for way too long.
Hack the Hood is recruiting youth ages 16–25 and small businesses based in Oakland, CA for our spring bootcamp starting in February 2017. For more information on applying as a youth participant, click here; for small business click here.