MassTech rolls out effort to improve industry diversity

PROVIDENCE – The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, or MassTech, is developing programs to diversify the industry talent pool in state civic groups, businesses and nonprofits.

The goal is to make the pool of candidates hired for internships, apprenticeships and entry-level positions more diverse, the group announced in a news release.

Groups that increase the amount of workers hired from underrepresented populations, such as women and people of color, will be eligible for grants, according to MassTech officials.

“We have a very real need for tech workers in this state, including over 9,000 job openings in the cybersecurity sector alone,” said Damon Cox, assistant secretary of technology, innovation and entrepreneurship for the commonwealth of Massachusetts. “In 2017, women held 49% of the total jobs in Massachusetts, but only 28% of computer, engineering and science jobs. When we look across gender and race stats, we see great opportunity to improve.”

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The Innovation Institute at MassTech, a public economic-development agency, has set aside $475,000 for an applicant or applicants that produce a way to get more candidates from underrepresented groups into the workforce through a request for proposals process. The deadline for submissions is June 28.

Called the Tech Talent Diversity Initiative, MassTech will back projects that address some or all of these goals:

  • Streamline identification and recruitment for diverse candidates.
  • Promote candidates’ placements in workforce opportunities.
  • Support candidates’ successful work experience.
  • Improve workplace practices in raising diverse participation and retention rates.

“We’re looking for one or several organizations that can tackle this critical challenge, to get candidates into jobs but also ensure that they have the training, mentorship and employer support to stay in the sector,” said Carolyn Kirk, executive director of MassTech.

The commonwealth’s efforts to drive diversity in the tech sector include support for groups such as Entrepreneurship for All. As of early 2019, the organization graduated 349 startups from its accelerator programs, 73% of which were women-owned and 57% were minority-owned.

MassTech will answer questions from potential applicants during an informational webinar session from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on May 23.

Susan Shalhoub is a PBN contributing writer.