“Sandi Hoff? From Nashville? I’m so glad to meet you! I’ve been hearing great things about you and Nashville from the rest of my team.” – Opportunity@Work
“Colleen, I was so glad to be sitting next to someone from Nashville. We modeled our new city job board off of workIT. And now we’re excited to see what you’re doing with the new platform.” – City of Birmingham
“Colleen? Was happy to find out I was sitting with someone from Nashville. I was there with the League of Cities and heard your CEO speak – very impressive what you all are doing and I would love to learn more.” – City of San Antonio
Quotes are paraphrased. Except the first, if my memory serves me right, those are the exact words I overheard spoken excitedly across the happy hour floor. Sandi’s a VIP.
If you’ve been following along the last few days on @webuildtech, you probably know that Sandi and I headed to Baltimore for the White House’s TechHire Summit, convening the 40 TechHire communities (Nashville was one of the original 21 selected earlier this year) and key partners and employers from around the country. We were excited to be joined by our partners Columbia State Community College and Workbay LLC. The crowning moment of the day was the announcement of $100,000,000 grant opportunity to expand and deepen work targeting education/training to employment pathways for disconnected populations.
What happened in Charm City?
First: People are talking, Nashville. More than talking, actually. They’re watching. The shout-outs and the questions came in a steady stream all afternoon – How did you do this? Can you help me with that? What can we do to get involved in Nashville? We – the NTC, our partners, our members – are recognized thought leaders in the world of education-to-employment.
Second: Community. Many of us stayed in Nashville because it’s a place that almost requires a willingness and desire to collaborate, get involved, and connect. We hear time and again that the community focused approach to building education & workforce opportunities in tech in Nashville is a leading example of collaboration. Thank you to all of our members and partners – we look forward to expanding our work with you over the next year.
Third: We Build Tech is special. Built on architecture that is recognized as sole source technology – meaning that organizations do not need to bid out projects because there is nothing else quite like it. We Build Tech is a customized version of that technology and is catching the eyes of the White House and other TechHire communities around the country.
During an “unconference” style breakout session during the Summit, the Nashville team pitched a discussion of community connection platforms that unite the ecosystem to facilitate collaborative efforts to build pathways from education and training to employment. Attendees from Ohio, Maine, San Francisco, and in between joined us for an unplanned and exciting conversation about We Build Tech and how platforms can drive data-driven decisions, broader education access, and transparency for communities. If you don’t know about We Build Tech, check it out online or contact me to learn more: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fourth: There is a lot more to be done. Megan Smith, Chief Technology Officer for the United States, opened the day, reminding us that of the 5.5MM jobs available today, 500,000 or more are in technology – a number that is only expected to grow. At the other end of the equation, young people are faced with the high cost of higher education or soaring student debt burdens, despite real wages falling stagnant and scores on NAEP and PISA forcing us to innovate within our education systems across the board. Addressing the systemic issues facing our K-12 and higher education systems, our workforce, and our community as a whole, as well as those specific to tech, will take time, commitment, and strong partnership.
Thank you to everyone that has been involved with the NTC or contributed on their own to expanding opportunities for folks interested in getting into the technology workforce. Anyone else that wants to get involved personally or with their company, we’d be delighted to hear from you. Contact Sandi Hoff about TechHire and Colleen Hoy about We Build Tech.
Our favorite shout-out of the day, however, came from Sue from Akron, Ohio. During the wrap up session, the facilitator from Opportunity@Work asked the room:
“What is the number one thing you’ll take home with you today?”
Sue: (paraphrased) “The number one thing I’m excited to take back with me is We Build Tech,” she said while holding up her brochure to make sure everyone could see what she meant. She went on to tell the rest of the TechHire community why We Build Tech is the one thing she is most excited to take home – that it is quite possibly exactly the solution that her community needs and she thinks many other communities need.
We had a great time in Charm City, are grateful to our hosts Opportunity@Work, and look forward to expanding our partnership with other TechHire communities. Most of all, we were excited to see that the work of so many of our partners and members was being recognized by the leaders convened by the White House this week. Congratulations to all of Nashville on continued creativity, collaboration, and leadership.