In a special ceremony in Birmingham’s Railroad Park on Friday afternoon, the first class of students graduated from the Innovate Birmingham Workforce program that trains unemployed or underemployed area young adults for high-demand information technology careers.
In 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor Education and Training Administration awarded roughly $6 million to the Innovate Birmingham Regional Workforce Partnership, a broad coalition of leaders committed to fostering economic growth for the region and offering better opportunities for young adults, led by the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
“This graduation is the first of many celebrations to come for credentialed computer technicians and software developers who will complete this program,” said Josh Carpenter, Ph.D., director of External Affairs in the Office of the President and principal investigator for the grant. “The collaboration among our broad partnership of 15 public, community, business and education leaders is changing lives, and we are energized to expand opportunities for young adults in Birmingham that benefit our growing knowledge-based economy.”
Students were selected for the program via a rigorous interview and screening process that assessed their motivation, competency and career vision, and they completed 12 weeks of full-time intensive technical and professional training at Innovation Depot to prepare them for immediate entry into the IT workforce. Classes are the product of partnerships with McKinsey Social Initiative and Covalence who built strategic and rigorous curricula for industry-driven needs in hardware support and software development.
The Innovate Birmingham Workforce program will prepare Birmingham-area young adults to obtain 925 high-paying IT jobs by 2021. Many of this class’s 18 graduates — all from the Birmingham area — have already received job offers with companies like Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, Brasfield & Gorrie, Regions and UAB.
Program graduate Martin Townsend is one of three graduates to receive a job offer from Blue and Cross Blue Shield of Alabama.
“This program has made me feel like I can bounce back from anything and have the entire support of a team of passionate professionals,” Townsend said. “It’s been an unbelievable opportunity. People need to understand that this type of support and this type of program is in place. It has brought me peace, and I feel like I have real hope for my future.”
Scott McGlaun is chief information officer at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama.
“Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama is a proponent of training people living in our community to fill vacant technology jobs,” McGlaun said. “The Innovate Birmingham Workforce Development program is a unique way of accelerating closure of the tech talent gap that currently exists in our region of the state.”
More than 30 employer partners have signed on to support Innovate Birmingham programs by interviewing candidates, offering positions, providing mentorship opportunities or delivering feedback on the course material.
Innovate Birmingham is the overall effort underway to create an innovation district in Birmingham to attract and retain high-caliber companies and talent, cluster startup and entrepreneurial activity, and connect surrounding Birmingham neighborhoods with technology training and job opportunities.
UAB President and Birmingham Business Alliance Chair Ray L. Watts said, “An opportunity like this for our area young adults through the Innovate Birmingham Workforce program is just one of many ways Birmingham is making sure innovation will thrive in the coming years. I want to thank all our partners for their leadership and congratulate the talented graduates for their hard work. We all wish them the best in their new and exciting careers.”
City of Birmingham officials who are among Innovate Birmingham program partners were on hand for the celebration.
“The Innovate Birmingham initiative is a great opportunity for public and private partners to collaborate for the greater good,” said Birmingham Mayor William Bell. “Since being named a TechHire City in 2015, it has been our mission to support our education partners and local employers who make the plans we have set in place possible. It is vital for our workforce ecosystem that we help young people live up to their potential and give them the tools they need to succeed. It is beneficial for all of us when we boost a sustainable workforce and retain our talent here in Birmingham.”
“The Innovate Birmingham Workforce programs represent a valuable opportunity to invest in the talented young people of this city,” said Birmingham City Councilor Sheila Tyson. “I am excited to celebrate the two students from my district who have made the most of this opportunity, and I hope more young people in District 6 will follow Kimberlyn and Adrian into Birmingham Careers. The Council is thrilled to support this initiative.”
Area residents 17-29 years old interested in applying for the program may email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The America’s Promise grant competition was initially announced by Vice President Joseph Biden and Dr. Jill Biden in April 2016. Funded through fees paid by employers to bring foreign workers into the United States, America’s Promise grants are intended to raise the technical skill levels of American workers and, over time, help businesses reduce their reliance on temporary visa programs.