Nearly Half a Million Dollars Awarded to Grantees to Boost Hiring and Training Opportunities Statewide
BOSTON – Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy joined leaders from the tech and innovation sector at Rapid7 in Boston today for the announcement of three new grants from the Commonwealth’s Tech Talent Diversity Initiative, an effort aimed at boosting diversity hiring and training opportunities for diverse candidates. The three grants, totaling $494,947, were awarded to Hack.Diversity in Boston, Benjamin Franklin Cummings Institute of Technology in Boston, and Tech Foundry in Springfield.
The announcement was hosted by leading cybersecurity firm Rapid7, a corporate partner of Hack.Diversity’s, and featured a roundtable discussion with executives from the three grantees. The roundtable highlighted how the different programs will address the Commonwealth’s commitment to making the tech and innovation workforce more reflective of the demographics in the state by increasing Black, Latinx, and female representation in these careers.
“The Tech Talent Diversity grants are one way our administration is working to improve equity in a key, growing sector, by supporting organizations that are opening doors for new candidates to find employment or to get the training they need to enter a career,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “We look forward to seeing the progress these organizations will make in the future.”
“We’ve committed to increasing the avenues that will allow people to enter the tech field, by investing in our academic programs statewide, by launching new training programs for people already in the workforce, and by supporting new apprenticeship programs,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “These grants show the need for a broad set of programs to ensure we’re reaching diverse candidates wherever they live in the state.”
“Meeting with the leaders at Rapid7 and the program leads, it is terrific to hear firsthand the work being done to advance opportunity and equity in the tech and innovation sector,” said Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy. “We’re proud of all this Administration has done to open doors in tech, life sciences, and clean energy sectors which are driving our economy. We need to ensure that all of our residents can share in that success and connect with programs like these to get on the path to a career in innovation-driven industries.”
“Diverse perspectives massively enrich our ability to innovate and succeed in tech,” said Corey Thomas, chairman and chief executive officer of Rapid7. “Nurturing diverse workforces also creates long lasting health and wealth benefits that positively influence the entire community. Throughout the grant process, we had the privilege to review the terrific impact of Hack.Diversity, BFIT, and Tech Foundry, and we are honored to further catalyze their future advancements with a donation of $20,000 to each organization.”
The second grant funding round under the Tech Talent Diversity Initiative opened in October 2021 with a request for proposals launched by the Innovation Institute at the MassTech Collaborative. After a review of submissions from organizations statewide, the three grantees were selected for awards, with each grantee focused on a distinct effort to increase the number of individuals from underrepresented or diverse populations who attain internships or entry-level employment opportunities with tech and innovation firms. The three proposals awarded include:
Geography: Greater Boston
In Hack.Diversity’s first five cycles, they have successfully graduated over 250 fellows who have completed paid internships at more than 50 employers in Massachusetts. Within three months of completing the program, 85% of their graduates will have identified their next step in technology (permanent job, further education, etc.). The organization has developed a network of individual mentors, corporate, and education and training stakeholders that support their efforts to increase the number of individuals from Black and Latinx populations entering the tech sector.
- Increase the number of fellows to 130 annually, up from 100;
- Launch a new Mechanical Engineering track, allowing them to engage new employer partners;
- Hire a Racial, Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion (REDI) director;
- Provide additional support for Fellows by providing stipends to support tech needs;
- Upskilling Support which will allow program alums to tap into scholarships for additional training; and
- Operationalize their ‘Hack.Hub,’ an invitation-only referral network to connect employers and program alumni.
Benjamin Franklin Cummings Institute of Technology (BFIT)
Founded in 1908, BFIT is a small private non-profit technical college in Boston with a mission to educate students in advanced technologies that align with the needs of high-demand industries in Greater Boston. BFIT’s student demographics are diverse (32% Black, 25% White, 25% Hispanic/Latino, 10% Asian; and 8% multi-ethnic or non-disclosed) and nearly 90% of students receive financial aid.
BFIT primarily serves students and companies from Greater Boston, however their grant-funded program will be delivered virtually, so students statewide can participate. BFIT will support 14 individuals facing barriers to employment to participate in a certificate program in Computer Technology (CT) with a concentration in Software Development, partnering with three organizations - Launch Academy, MassTLC, and MentorWorks Students will gain “29 college credits that can also be stackable towards an Associate degree in Computer Technology.” Half of the certificate will be delivered through Launch Academy’s bootcamp and half through college courses delivered by BFIT, with MentorWorks providing access to career services staff and their Talent Accelerator Platform (TAP), and MassTLC opening doors with industry partners that can provide internship and entry-level job opportunities.
Geography: Western Mass
Tech Foundry was founded in 2014 by Pioneer Valley tech employers and other workforce, business, education, and economic development stakeholders to address the regional skills gap in Information Technology and drive regional economic growth. The organization offers training programs aimed at filling entry-level IT roles and provides training that is tailored to the needs of partner employers, including a work experience component where students are placed in a position at a local employer.
The grant will be used to assist employer partners ability to host students, primarily in the Pioneer Valley, for hands-on training, by creating a new platform called “Tech Foundry Ventures,” to host two new programs, including:
- Development of a virtual IT technician training environment, working with employer partners to create a tool where students will face similar scenarios to those seen on the job, allowing them to practice the skills they have learned in the classroom without the stakes of serving real-world clients; and
- Launch a service-learning initiative where students will work with community organizations that cannot afford to utilize commercial services, providing similar IT services to those provided by employer partners.
The expanded tools will allow Tech Foundry to train as many as 150 additional students per year, three times its existing number.
"Over the past five years, Hack.Diversity has collaborated with organizations, like Rapid7, that prioritize moving beyond the solidarity statement when it comes to racial equity work. We've proven our model with actionable results.” said Jody Rose, Co-founder and President at Hack.Diversity. "We are honored for this to be recognized by MassTech Collaborative, whose funding will be instrumental to our scale-up endeavors, ensuring that Black and Latinx professionals know they belong in the innovation economy."
“We are grateful to the Baker-Polito Administration for this funding that will allow us extend a pathway to opportunity to more students who are looking to study Software Development and stacks toward an Associate’s degree in Computer Technology,” said Aisha Francis, PhD, president & CEO of Benjamin Franklin Cummings Institute of Technology (BFCIT). “BFCIT looks forward to building on our partnerships with LaunchAcademy and MassTLC to deliver this program to students from various backgrounds and preparing them to enter the lucrative IT workforce thus contributing to the Commonwealth’s economy.”
“Tech Foundry provides agile, real-time opportunities for our student members to practice the new technology skills they’re developing through training,” said Tricia Canavan, Chief Executive Officer of Tech Foundry. “The Tech Talent Diversity Initiative funding is allowing us to expand the opportunities for refining their students’ tech competencies through a two-pronged approach. The virtual ‘sandbox’ allows Tech Foundry to create scenarios in real-time which reflect our employer partners’ unique help desk needs, enabling relevant skills practice. The service-learning project will provide Tech Foundry participants another opportunity to sharpen their tech skills while also supporting the community. The Commonwealth’s investment in these programs will provide measurable, positive impact to our student members as well as the region.”
“I am proud to support the Tech Talent Diversity Initiative Awards which promote innovation across the Commonwealth and ensure that the technology industry remains accessible to underrepresented groups," said Senator Eric P. Lesser, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies. "Special congratulations to Springfield's own Tech Foundry, whose focus on regional equity and economic development in Western Mass will have a tremendous impact on Springfield and our region as a whole."
The Tech Talent Diversity Initiative was launched in May 2019, managed by the Innovation Institute at the MassTech Collaborative, and the first round of grants were awarded in January 2020. The first round of awards included grants to both Hack.Diversity and Tech Foundry, with the new awards expanding the scope and reach of each program.
“The impact we’ve seen from these grantees has been outstanding, particularly given the impacts from COVID-19 and the move toward virtual programming that we’ve seen over the past several years,” said Pat Larkin, Director of the Innovation Institute at MassTech. “The new grants address areas that are roadblocks to diversity and equity, as they expand virtual learning opportunities, provide financial support for devices, and offer career mentorship, challenges faced by diverse candidates which hinder their ability to get into jobs and to keep progressing in a career.”
In addition to the Tech Talent Diversity Initiative, the MassTech Collaborative also manages several programs to increase access to innovation-focused jobs in the state, including:
- The Intern Partnership program, a 10-year-old program that provides stipends to support paid internships for homegrown graduate and undergraduate students;
- A Cybersecurity Mentorship program that helps prepare diverse college students to pursue cyber careers; and
- The MassBridge program, a DoD-funded advanced manufacturing technician training program that will serve as a national model.
About the Innovation Institute at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative
The MassTech Collaborative is a quasi-public economic development agency that strengthens the competitiveness of the tech and innovation economy by driving strategic investments, partnerships, and insights that harness the talent of Massachusetts. The Innovation Institute is the division of MassTech that advances its core mission of innovation and cluster growth across the Commonwealth. Created in 2003, the Innovation Institute intervenes in the economy in the following four ways:
- Conducts research and analysis that improves the state’s understandings of unmet needs and opportunities in the innovation economy;
- Serves as convener and key strategic broker on the landscape;
- Manages high-value projects on behalf of the Commonwealth; and
- Makes strategic investments in support of innovation-based economic development.
For more information, visit https://innovation.masstech.org/.