Innovate Birmingham prepares students for tech jobs

Innovate Birmingham prepares students for tech jobs
Most of the graduates of the Innovate Birmingham Development Program already have secured jobs. (Billy Brown / Alabama NewsCenter)

The 28 graduates of an Innovate Birmingham program are “the full definition of getting it right” according to Birmingham’s mayor and “how workforce development is supposed to work” according to an Alabama Power executive.

The graduates were feted at a commencement ceremony at Alabama Power corporate headquarters on April 13 where UAB President Ray Watts presented them with their certificates.

Each quarter, the Innovate Birmingham Development Program prepares students for careers in Birmingham’s growing tech sector through training via the I AM BHAM coding bootcamp and Generation IT bootcamp. Friday’s class was the fourth graduating class in the program.

Innovate Birmingham holds graduation for tech students from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

I AM BHAM, a 14-week program, offers short-term, fast-track, intensive training for full stack and front-end web development. The 12-week Generation IT program offers an IT specialist training program for students to receive their CompTIA A+ certification. Both programs, held onsite at Innovation Depot in Birmingham, allow students to interact daily with potential employers.

More than 25 employers – including corporations such as Alabama Power, BBVA Compass, Regions Financial and Protective Life – support the program and offer graduates jobs.

John Hudson, senior vice president of Marketing and Business Development at Alabama Power, said a program that can take someone who was unemployed, train them in a new skill and promise them a job upon graduation “is how workforce development is supposed to work.”

“All of us who work on economic development in Birmingham are trying to move this community and this city toward a more technology-based economy,” Hudson said. “If we’re going to do that, workforce is going to continue to be prominent in us getting there.”

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said the Magic City’s economy is hitched to growing the technology industry.

“As we look at what our strengths are and what our strengths can be, IT technology and innovation is something we need to triple down on and have a full investment in,” Woodfin said.

He said economic development is ultimately an investment in people and the Innovate Birmingham program epitomizes that idea.

“This is a full definition of getting it right,” Woodfin said.

Watts said the program is an extension of UAB’s mission.

“As we looked at the needs in Birmingham, we realized there was a subset of our young people who have not had the opportunity yet to be in the right place at the right time to develop those educational skills,” he said.

The program was made possible, in large part, by a $6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Josh Carpenter, director of the Birmingham Office of Economic Development, was instrumental in constructing the partnership that pursued that grant when he was at UAB. He was at the commencement.

“Sustaining the economy through a qualified and diverse workforce is absolutely fundamental to our success in creating the innovation of the future,” Carpenter said. “This is laying a pipeline for us to be able to showcase around the country that we have a best-in-class program that can train people and equip them with the skills they need to succeed very quickly in a workforce that demands more nimble and qualified talent.”

Watts said he was doing more than handing graduates their certifications: He was handing them a better Birmingham.

“It’s a great opportunity to give our young people skills and knowledge that will allow them to get a really good job and provide for their families, and help their neighborhoods and the entire city be successful,” Watts said.

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