Black ExperienceBusinessTechnology

IT Recruiters Building Pathways to Industry for African Americans

If nothing else, the coronavirus pandemic and the mass movement to the virtual realm that followed have challenged information technology [IT] specialists at school districts, universities, small businesses and corporations in a myriad of ways.

Among these new hurdles: developing websites, servers and programs which help those entities efficiently meet both their needs and those of an economically and socially diverse consumer base.

On the cusp of what’s predicted to be another shutdown across the region, one IT specialist has continued with efforts to increase Black participation in an industry which experts describe as one of safest and economically viable during the pandemic.

“Those who are in this career field didn’t see a [drastic change] to our jobs; we’ve kind of been going on as normal from home,” said Melvin Thompson, an IT specialist of more than 30 years of experience in health and systems administration.

Starting early next year, those who receive Thompson’s “Opportunity Scholarship” will take virtual classes to become Linux administrators – people routinely trusted to set up and maintain organizations’ computer servers.

During weekly virtual classes, Thompson, owner of Mobile IT and Training Solutions LLC, in Lorton, Va., will connect them to computer systems and help them practice skills explored in videos and homework assignments. Thompson’s classes culminate in the acquisition of a certification and enrollees have the option of joining another class at no additional cost.

The “Opportunity Scholarship” is geared toward those who experienced a COVID-19-related job loss.

Since the start of the pandemic, Thompson has received phone calls from employers in search of web developers and those well versed in database management.

He said that showed him that time remains of the essence for Blacks to leverage opportunities in the IT field.

“Because the field is so wide and things are going to the virtual environment, you can do things from home,” Thompson said. “It’s not as hard as many of us think it is. It’s just that you have to apply yourself.”

Blacks account for less than two percent of the workforce at several prominent U.S.-based tech companies.

Since March, more than 26 million Americans – one-sixth of the workforce – have applied for unemployment compensation. A report released by the Alera Group, Inc. designated higher education, agriculture, hospitality and nonprofit organizations as some of the hardest hit industries during the pandemic.

In the IT field, job loss among lower-skilled workers has increased the need for securing additional certifications, many of which take only a few months at a time to acquire with the promise of greater job security and a salary increase.

Over the last decade, as college tuition has skyrocketed, IT certifications have been heralded as a means of navigating an increasingly tech-based global economy.

Careers in the IT field include: software programmers, computer scientists, computer support and networking specialists, cloud systems engineers and database administrators. Each of the career avenues promise a potential annual income in the six figures.

IT professionals could be even more in demand as President-elect Joe Biden (D) attempts to advance a transition agenda focused on expanding broadband access throughout the U.S. and tackling issues related to COVID-19, the economy and climate change.

Meanwhile, IT veterans say they’re anxiously waiting to see how the Biden administration plans to regulate various facets of their industry.

As cloud technology entrepreneur Aaron Levie recently told pundits on CNBC, there’s still confidence in the tech world about what’s to come over the next four years, especially in an era in which consumers have grown more dependent on their services.

“Irrespective of the stock market and the economic indicators, people think the direction this country is in is a positive one and I’m excited about how the Biden administration can drive long term competitiveness in the foundation of our business,” said Levie, CEO of Box, Inc.

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