Innovate Birmingham partnership creates pathway to tech jobs

Innovate Birmingham partnership creates pathway to tech jobs
Innovation Depot, home to more than 100 startups, stands at the center of Birmingham’s ‘Innovation District.’ (Michael Tomberlin/Alabama NewsCenter)

A program called the Innovate Birmingham Regional Workforce Partnership will deploy $6 million in federal funding to train young adults in Alabama’s largest metro area for 925 high-paying technology-focused jobs.

The Innovate Birmingham partnership is supported by a broad coalition of business, community and education leaders who are committed to spurring economic growth in the region and improving opportunities for young adults.

promise_vert_600px_wideThe funding comes from a U.S. Department of Labor program that aims to connect Americans to tuition-free education and in-demand jobs. Training in Birmingham is expected to begin in spring 2017.

“The main focus of this effort is to offer new educational opportunities for the young adults in our community to provide them with training and expertise that will enable them to have prosperous, bright futures,” said Dr. Ray Watts, president of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

“It will positively change their futures and the futures of their families and communities,” he added.

The Innovate Birmingham program aligns with the priorities of Accelerate Alabama, the state’s strategic economic development growth plan, said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. The Accelerate plan identified information technology as a key target area because its impact spans many industry sectors and the jobs typically pay above-average wages.

“The Innovate Birmingham partnership is a great example of how vision and teamwork can create opportunity and drive long-term growth in a community by building on a foundation of valuable skills,” Canfield said.

“Across Alabama, we’re committed to equipping our citizens with the know-how and capabilities they need to succeed in the workplace.”

New talent pipeline

The Innovate Birmingham program will be administered in the UAB Innovation Lab (UAB iLab) at Innovation Depot, a business incubator that’s home to more than 100 startups. Innovation Depot will connect participants in the program with its tenants and other partner businesses.

(Michael Tomberlin/Alabama NewsCenter)
Innovation Depot President and CEO Devon Laney says the IT training provided by the Innovate Birmingham partnership will benefit the startups housed at the Depot. (Michael Tomberlin/Alabama NewsCenter)

“At Innovation Depot, we know that IT skills stimulate entrepreneurial activity and benefit our startup companies in the highly competitive and fast-moving technology space,” said Innovation Depot President and CEO Devon Laney.

UAB said the program will use TechHire data in combination with local resources to align education and training providers with regional employers, ensuring industry-aligned skill development for workers. Birmingham was selected in 2015 to take part in TechHire, a White House program that acts as a gateway to to well-paying tech jobs.

According to TechHire data, the Birmingham region experienced the second-fastest information technology job growth in the country during the first half of 2016, meaning regional workforce supply of IT skills is critical moving forward.

“As a result of this grant, a new tech talent pipeline will connect our community with high-demand information technology jobs and training,” said Brian Hilson, president and CEO of the Birmingham Business Alliance, which is involved in the partnership.

Many groups, employers participating

Many other organizations are members of the Innovate Birmingham partnership team. These include the City of Birmingham, Lawson State Community College, Jefferson State Community College, Jefferson County’s Alabama Career Centers, the Central Six Workforce Development Council and Tech Birmingham.

In addition, many of the region’s largest employers are participating in the program.

“Our partners all want to see young adults succeed, as well as our local economy’s continued evolution as it grows and thrives,” said UAB’s Josh Carpenter, director of External Affairs in the Office of the President, who spearheaded the application.

“Preparing this grant submission was an inspiring team effort indicative of the collaborative work we will do together that will absolutely change lives and transform communities,” he said.

This story originally appeared on the Alabama Department of Commerce’s Made in Alabama website.

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