Sprout Fund Partners With City, County To Help Young Men Of Color Build Digital Literacy Skills

Feb 24, 2017

The Sprout Fund is collaborating with city and county leaders to help young black men build digital literacy skills and find jobs.

The City of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County and the Sprout Fund will partner together as part of the national My Brother’s Keeper initiative to connect organizations that work with youth to help close the digital divide and prepare men of color between the ages of 16 and 24 for the workforce.

“We’re really looking to provide access to the equipment, technology and the training that would be needed to get young people started down the path toward learning how to use computers in the workforce,” said Mac Howison, senior program officer for Catalytic Funding at the Sprout Fund.

Howison said that could mean learning to code, but could also include more basic skills. 

“The kind of life skills that are needed to build out an effective resume, to interview well, to build a kind of social capital that is sometimes missing in a lot of young people’s lives that could give them an advantage when they’re looking for employment,” he said.

Sprout said that 30 percent of Pittsburgh Public Schools students never graduate or “acquire the necessary preparation skills to contribute to the workforce.” Additionally, Sprout estimated nearly one-quarter of black teenagers are unemployed.

Teaching teens coding skills could help boost unemployment numbers and fill open jobs. Code.org reports that Pennsylvania has more than 17,000 open computing jobs, but only about 2,820 computer science graduates. The organization said nearly three-quarters of science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, jobs are in computing.

According to Sprout, computer science degrees are highly sought after by employers, “but relatively few men of color are working toward computer science degrees."

Grants totaling $100,000 will be given to ten organizations, that have yet to be determined. They will each receive an initial $5,000 grant to participate in the collaborative and additional money will be made available to enhance capacity. Once the organizations are selected, Howison said they will hopefully work with one another.

“We’re hoping those organizations will build a community of practice and exchange information and improve one another as they go through this process,” said Howison.

Organizations seeking to participate must submit their proposals by April 14. After the organizations have been selected, the collaboration will develop programs and plans to implement them in the fall.

“This Collaborative is a vital step in the effort to open pathways to employment and provide necessary skills to young people in our region,” said Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto. “When we connect the organizations working in our neighborhoods, provide resources to form partnerships, and make investments in technology, we’re advancing our region’s ability to equitably serve young people.”