Note: In March, this work was disrupted by Covid19 as training programs and hiring have slowed. However, the progress will be evaluated to determine whether this could become a model for other projects that aim to close racial and gender disparities in employment in a variety of high-demand occupations.
Atomic Data, a technology company based in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul region, has joined forces with a local training provider to help combat the racial wealth gap and lack of skilled people of color working in the information technology (IT) industry in the Twin Cities. This partnership provides students with both virtual and classroom-based learning, real-world career preparation and hands-on experience to mold inexperienced but passionate students into IT professionals – all at no cost to the student.
Once students complete their classroom training, they attend the Atomic Data Academy for a paid, on-site internship. After evaluating the success of the first two cohorts, the partners identified a troubling issue. Even though female students made up less than 20% of the cohort, they accounted for 100% of the dropout rate.
Evaluations uncovered part of the problem: women participating in the program were also serving as the primary home and childcare provider for their families, which included an average of three children. The high cost and demand for high-quality childcare left many participants relying on alternative options, such as leaving their children with older family members. While more affordable, this family-based care proved to be inconsistent and unreliable for many of the students, affecting their ability to succeed in the program.
Partnering for Results
For help with this issue, Atomic Data reached out to the Center for Economic Inclusion (CEI). Together, they assembled a small convening of partners to assess and identify human-centered, cross-sector solutions. They are also working together to identify a community partner that can provide resources to purchase childcare slots for mothers enrolled in the IT program. CEI believes an investment of approximately $582,000 will provide childcare support dollars enabling 24 women of color to complete the training program over the next three years.
This approach will:
- Provide children with quality, culturally relevant care
- Invest in the growth of female childcare entrepreneurs
- Support the education and advancement of women of color in IT
- Benefit children by ensuring they arrive in kindergarten fully prepared to learn
The group projects that, with this childcare support, female enrollment in the program will increase by 60-65%, with half completing the IT training program and gaining employment with Atomic Data.