How TechHire Oakland Helps Underserved Residents of Color Break Into Tech

by Kirsten Lundgren

How much longer must we read the same headlines about diversity in tech? Last week, Reveal released The Clearest Picture of Silicon Valley’s Diversity Yet. The sub-line reads, “It’s bad. But some companies are doing less bad.” TechHire Oakland won’t settle for Silicon Valley’s status quo. Our network of training, employer, and community partners are working with talent of color like Abel Regalado, to create a new alternative.

Raised in Fruitvale by a single working mom, Abel learned about opportunities in tech from a supportive public school teacher. He enrolled in over six after-school exposure programs, rotated across three community college campuses, and juggled part-time work to fulfill his goal of enrolling in Hack Reactor’s Immersive Bootcamp on full scholarship this summer.

This is the path a resilient young person designed on his own. How might we we improve it? Exposure to tech shouldn’t rely on the luck of a good teacher. That’s why TechHire Oakland builds structured, supportive pathways into tech. We’re the only East Bay coalition focused on pathways into high-demand, well-paying tech careers. Here’s how we do it.

1) TRAINING REFERRALS

High-skill jobs require long training pathways. TechHire Oakland has an incredible network of 20+ training partners working on the daily to upskill local talent. For Abel and his peers, determining the right bundle of programs can quickly grow daunting. Free exposure programs abound with few affordable options to advance to skill mastery. It’s easy to feel stuck without a clear path forward.

TechHire Oakland makes local training more navigable. With a bird’s eye view of the training ecosystem, we’re able to make more effective referrals into comprehensive sequences of trainings (instead of individual programs). There’s no “right” path, but chances of success are better with a roadmap. You can browse trainings across our five emerging tech pathways online or schedule a one-on-one referral session at www.techhireoakland.org.

2) MENTORING

Imagine having the right skills for tech, but not knowing the right people to help you break in. Who you know matters. 78% of recruiters find candidates through referrals. And 35% of tech employees obtain jobs through them. Abel and his peers often interact with current employees in one-off company and classroom visits. They quickly see the discrepancies. In the words of Mark Luckie, there’s nothing wrong with, but something “unnerving” about not seeing people who look like you in a workspace.

TechHire Oakland seeks to empower not unnerve local talent. That’s why we foster connection with mentors from shared backgrounds. We’re excited to partner with Our Collective, a coalition of inspiring, diverse professionals committed to creating a more inclusive workforce. Stay tuned for more as we develop these supportive networks and be sure to sign up for updates.

3) JOB BASED LEARNING

Work-based learning increases skill mastery and hiring opportunities. These opportunities must extend to overlooked communities. As economic pressures increase the number of racial minorities enrolled in community college, TechHire Oakland sees an urgent need to get companies engaged. Only one of fifteen tech companies who have invested in Oakland currently works with community college talent like Abel. We’re out to change this.

Starting this fall, TechHire Oakland will offer employer-led workshops for community college and other underserved students of color. Participants will build tangible skills and tools that elevate their portfolio of experiences. We’re prioritizing companies who offer a full spectrum of job-based learning opportunities into which we refer talent — both internships for those returning to school, and apprenticeships for those seeking to convert to full time roles.

HOW TO GET INVOLVED

Are you or someone you know an East Bay resident of color interested in breaking into tech? Or an employee/employer wanting to level the playing field? Get connected now at www.techhireoakland.org. Our new site includes a wealth of central resources, including a first-ever job board tracking East Bay, tech-specific openings.

We’re excited to activate inclusive tech done right, not tech done “less bad” here in Oakland and the East Bay. Abel is too. Join us.