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Insights / June 9, 2023

Announcing a new $1.2 million investment in BIPOC tech talent

By Software for Good

Ramsey County awards SfG and New Vision Foundation $1.2M to train a new generation of diverse local software developers

Ramsey County, Minnesota, has chosen New Vision Foundation and Software for Good to train the next generation of diverse local software engineering talent. With $1.2 million in funding from the federal American Rescue Plan, invested in partnership with the City of Saint Paul, 30 young people of color from Ramsey County will learn everything they need to contribute to our tech workforce. These new technologists will have the chance to build lifelong careers, strengthen our local communities, and contribute to a Minnesota technology ecosystem that serves the human needs of the changing world we share. Applications for the program are open now.

The idea for this new program was born five years ago, when New Vision founder Hussein Farah and Sharon Kennedy Vickers, now Software for Good’s CEO, were both Bush Foundation Fellows. “Hussein and I know that the Minnesota tech ecosystem desperately needs the brilliance of people of color,” Sharon said. “And we believe that communities of color deserve a share in the prosperity that data and technology make possible. This new partnership puts the convictions we share into action, right here in the Twin Cities.”

How the program will work

Starting in 2024, three annual cohorts of ten Ramsey County residents, all people of color between 18 and 30 years old, will participate in the program. No previous software experience is required, African Community Services and Project for Pride in Living will spread the word, and Repowered will provide free laptops.

With the financial support of the program, participants will begin with a six-month full-stack software engineering bootcamp, co-developed by Software for Good and taught by New Vision Foundation’s expert all-BIPOC instructor team. Then, bootcamp graduates will spend six more months working as Software for Good apprentices, working shoulder to shoulder with our engineers and strategists on real-world software projects.  By the end of the year-long program, the apprentices will be compelling candidates for the kinds of software jobs that Minnesota employers urgently need to hire.

Learning to code in the real world

The bootcamp and apprenticeship build on New Vision Foundation’s experience teaching the fundamentals of software engineering to people with no previous tech skills, and Software for Good’s decades of experience building technical tools for mission-driven organizations across sectors.

“Our bootcamp curriculum will really bridge the gap between learning and work experience,” explained Software for Good engineering chief Kevin Bullock, who will help develop the curriculum and supervise the apprenticeship program. “Our goal is to give people enough experience to be productive on real-world projects, and enough fundamentals to adapt seamlessly to the changing technologies they’ll encounter as working engineers.”

After bootcamp, participants will be working engineers immediately, as Software for Good apprentices — experience that’s proven invaluable in the past. Every graduate of Software for Good’s 2021–22 DEED-funded training and apprenticeship program has either found a full-time job in the tech industry or pursued further education. In fact, three former apprentices are working for Software for Good today. Engineers Annie Tran, Chelsey McKinney and Yasmeen Awad, now full-time members of the SfG team, got their start in tech as apprentices here — and now they’re mentoring the next generation of technologists.

A significant investment — with even bigger returns

Ramsey County’s investment in a diverse software development ecosystem is significant — and it shows just how much it takes to build the tech ecosystem we need. “If we want Minnesota to stay competitive in the world,” Sharon said, “it is not optional to invest in new engineering talent. This bootcamp and apprenticeship program is as efficient as we’ve been able to make it, and still it costs $1.2 million to train 30 new software developers. But at a time when Twin Cities companies have thousands more software engineering jobs than there are technologists to fill them, our communities can’t afford not to make the investment.”

Fortunately, every dollar invested in local developers of color will pay huge dividends in community wealth and wellbeing. As the program continues, Ecotone Analytics will create an impact model to quantify the social return on Ramsey County’s $1.2 million commitment — making future investments in a diverse local tech workforce even easier to make.