CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio – A local company is fighting to bridge the technology divide by training black people in the skills they need to join the industry.
A report from the Pew Research Center said that only 9% of people in the STEM workforce are black. It is even lower (5%) in the fields of architecture and engineering.
Urban City Codes, a community technology training center in Cleveland Heights, is working to overcome these statistics. It is the only black-owned technical training center of its kind in northeastern Ohio.
“We offer programming training. We have our own coding boot camp. We have a cybersecurity bootcamp, ”said co-founder Tondi Allen. “We have a cybersecurity bootcamp that takes you from zero to become a cybersecurity analyst. We have drone technology, helping you get your drone pilot license. We also have an IT support program. We have jobs pending for each of these roles.
Allen and her husband Terrence opened the center in 2020. They also have a business focused on the design, development and management of social media and for years would help local black-owned business owners set up sites. Web.
“And then as soon as we walked away they had all of these questions and they were all related to digital literacy issues,” Allen said. “So what we found out was that all of these businesses that we thought we were helping, we weren’t really helping them because they didn’t know how, they didn’t have the digital skills to actually run the business. . So my husband and I said, ‘Okay, we’ve got to fix this.’ So we started providing technical business training for black owned businesses. Then it became an even bigger monster when we realized that the whole community needed some technical training at some level.
Allen said their goal was to bridge the technology divide for black people.
“Right now we only make up 2% of the tech industry in terms of jobs and technology and that’s really not good enough for our community. Because what’s going on is all jobs and positions are tech-oriented and they’re going to have some kind of tech component, ”Allen said. “So what we did, we decided to focus on that, because with everything going tech, our whole community is going to be left out. “
One of the first students of Urban City Code was Oliver Elie III. He’s honest about his tech skills.
“What I’ve learned is that I’m not as tech savvy as I thought I was. It’s number one, ”Elie said.
Elie, who works full-time at a steel plant in Cleveland, said he mainly uses the computer for basic daily tasks, but wants to learn more.
“I think the future is in IT, tech-driven careers and things of that nature. So I thought I might want to get a head start, ”Elie said.
This brought him to Urban City Codes, along with Terewell Tankeng, a mother of three who started taking classes at the center when it opened.
“I started with cybersecurity. And it opened my eyes to the fifth dimension, basically, the new world and what’s going on. It really opened my eyes to see what we live in. Cyber security really opened my mind and now I’m in the CompTIA A + class. I’m basically going under the hood now, so I’m learning the ins and outs of computers and infrastructure, everything, ”Tankeng said.
Student and military veteran Keith Benford is also taking CompTIA A + training at Urban City Codes. The course provides certification for technical and IT support.
Benford said he joined last spring to help it reinvent itself.
“It’s just the market. It’s all computer science now, I mean even to get a job you have to go to a website and apply for a job, ”Benford said. “And even in my community, again with the elderly. I worked with the seniors and helped get them online to just set up a basic Gmail account and do other basic stuff.
When it comes to learning these ever-important skills, Allen said it makes all the difference to have someone like them teach the lessons in an industry with so little representation.
“I would say it’s a unique advantage because no matter what another organization is trying to promote, black people want to learn from other black people. It’s a fact. And there is something in there. It’s a representation, ”Allen said. “With Urban City Codes, we all have black teachers, all black tech mentors. All of our coaches are black, and they work in technology. So wherever you turn, you have someone representing you, and they have answers.
More information on urban city codes and how to register for its courses can be found here.
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