Flint receives federal help for technology training

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Flint is among the cities selected for the expansion of a federal program to help cities coordinate skills training to connect Americans with well-paying technology jobs.

The Obama administration is expanding its “TechHires” program from its initial base of 21 communities, which included Detroit last year, to 50 communities working with 200 to 300 employers in information technology fields such as software development, network administration and cybersecurity.

The initiative is continuing in Detroit, where 10,000 of 74,000 open positions are tech jobs, according to the market analytics firm Burning Glass Technologies. In Flint, 124 of 2,990 open positions are tech jobs.

“These jobs are open in every corner of America from big cities to small towns, and across all industries from health care to manufacturing – not just within the tech sector itself,” Jacob Leibenluft, deputy director of the National Economic Council, said on a call with reporters.

“In the coming years, we know that demand for workers with these skills will only grow.”

TechHires aims to quickly prepare workers through online training modules or coding boot camps that require just three to six months of intensive training, Leibenluft said.

The White House said a partnership with Social Impact Philanthropy and Investment and the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce would allow for the training of 400 individuals by 2020 for job opportunities with local employers including sipIT, the Disability Network and the Michigan Employer Resource Network Team, which works with 77 employers statewide.

Flint TechHire would train individuals through programs at Mott Community College with the goal of their securing a tech job in less than a year.

The designation for Flint doesn’t come with federal dollars attached, but the local partners are hoping to fund the initiative through a $4 million grant they’re seeking from the U.S. Department of Labor, said Eric Andreychuk, grants coordinator for the Genesee chamber.

The target population for training would be those involved in the chamber’s summer youth programs, as well as young adults who have been “disconnected” from the workforce.

“We’ll be getting them into these training pipelines that are built to be a little quicker than average and that will get people into well-paying jobs faster than traditional routes,” Andreychuk said.

“On the back end, we will be using our employer resources and network to connect these individuals who have gone through the training and help them find jobs.”

Kristina Johnston, director of grants and special projects at the Genesee chamber, said information technology is among the sectors that her organization often hears about an ongoing need for skilled employees. It’s also one in which the chamber wants to encourage new growth by bringing new companies to the greater Flint area.

The TechHires expansion comes as President Barack Obama prepares to visit the technology conference South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, on Friday.

mburke@detroitnews.com

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