Less than a year ago, Candace Beverly relocated to Charlotte from Chicago with two kids and no job. Next month, she’s set to graduate from Carolina Fintech Hub’s Workforce Investment Network program and transition into a role within Bank of America’s IT department.
At the program’s finish line, full-time employment starting at $55,000, pro-rated — an agreed-upon rate for 12 months — at some of the region’s leading financial services and insurance companies.
“The program has actually saved me from a dead-end job,” said Beverly, whose role upon graduation will include helping to program Bank of America’s mobile app. “I was taking advantage of the human services that they have here, but that’s no way to live for someone who’s 36 with two children. This program has provided a long-term fix for what ails me, which is economic stability and upward mobility.”
Carolina Fintech Hub teamed up with community partners like BLKTECHCLT and Tech Talent South to lead the program’s recruiting and training efforts, respectively.
“We can match that need for new market talent with the fact that there are a bunch of folks out there in the community who just are in the bottom quantile of upward mobility, who never had a chance to go to college, who didn’t have the social capital to learn about coding but they would have been great,” said Tariq Bokhari, co-founder and executive director of Carolina Fintech Hub.
Alyssa Brown, research and performance manager at Charlotte Works, the county’s workforce development board, says labor market data shows that Mecklenburg County has plenty of room to increase diversity within the tech industry.
According to Brown, African Americans currently make up 14% of the local tech industry compared to 73% white and 11% Asian. Over the next five years, 17,600 IT jobs will be needed in Mecklenburg County. Of those, 4,250 will be newly created jobs while the rest will be openings due to turnover or retirements.
Venture capitalist Shante Williams, who also serves as chairman of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Black Chamber of Commerce, acknowledges the underrepresentation but says more opportunities like the WIN program may be a step in the right direction for diversity in tech.
“As Black residents, we haven’t fully begun to participate in the tech economy. It’s coming, but we still lag behind,” Williams said. “You got to have a start [and] you got to have a foot in the door. So, even if you didn’t go to college, the WIN program provides avenues into these very large companies that otherwise [trainees] would not be able to get into the front door.”
Next year, Bokhari plans to run two six-month cohorts, hopefully producing more sought-after trainees like Beverly.
“By incorporating people who come from all different walks of life, you get insight, and it may hopefully help to put Charlotte on the forefront of some of the movement that is coming,” Beverly said. “There are a lot of people relocating to Charlotte. It’s growing exponentially, so why not have opportunities grow exponentially as well?”