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Laura Weidman Powers responds to the “greatest opportunity in tech”

Laura Weidman Powers, founder of CODE2040, took the stage at KANEKO this morning to tell Big Omaha attendees about how her team is filling the gap between a growing minority population and a growing need for talent in the tech industry.

How the U.S. economy and demography trends are changing

“Software is eating jobs,” Powers said. She said STEM jobs are the fastest-growing category of jobs in the U.S., with 71 percent of those jobs specifically in computing. At this rate, she suggested, 1 million jobs in tech will be unfilled by 2020. “We have this mismatch between people looking for jobs and the skills they have.”

While the economy is changing, so are U.S. demographics. Powers displayed stats like how 90 percent of population growth comes from minorities. By the year 2040, she said, people of color will collectively be the majority, with blacks and latinos comprising 42 percent.

“But we’re left out of economic growth,” Powers said, adding that minorities especially left out of tech, with fewer than 1 percent of tech startups having a black founder in the U.S. The growth trends in economy and demography present an opportunity to close the wealth and achievements gap in the US. “Tech is a path to wealth,” she said, “and it’s a path to stability.” 

How CODE2040 is filling the tech industry gap

Powers launched CODE2040 just over two years ago, as a result of her own experiences in the tech industry. While working in business development for a tech startup and attending industry events, she noticed “there weren’t a lot of people that looked like me in the room.” CODE2040 is a Bay-area nonprofit working to change that ratio by finding and cultivating black and latino tech talent and connecting them with partner companies.

For example, CODE2040’s flagship program, 2040 Fellows, is a summer-long career accelerator that offers internships, workshops, hackathons, mentorships and networking events. Ninety percent of attendees get a full-time offer from their summer employer, Powers said, and 100 percent work in tech post graduation. CODE2040 has placed talent at more than 25 companies. Fellows also tend to bring similar programming back to their campuses, hosting hackathons at their own universities.

“We would like to go out of business,” Powers said. “The last thing we want to be is a bottleneck. We don’t want to be a broker. We want to encourage everyone to make these kinds of connections.” 


 

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