Delaware Group Builds Toward a More Inclusive IT Workforce

To address the diversity gaps in the state’s public- and private-sector workforce, the Delaware Prosperity Partnership has developed a strategy to help build a more inclusive tech talent pipeline.

Silhouette profile group of men and women of diverse culture.
(Melitas/Shutterstock)
Melitas/Shutterstock
There has long been a diversity gap in the technology industry, where Black and Latino people have consistently been underrepresented and women make up less than half of the workforce.

The Delaware Prosperity Partnership (DPP), a public-private partnership working to aid economic development efforts, recently announced the release of a strategy to reduce that diversity gap for employers and other entities within the state.

The lack of diversity in Delaware’s larger IT workforce is prevalent, with the release noting almost three quarters are male, and almost 60 percent are white. The release also noted jobs in the technology sector have risen about 20 percent in the last two years, underscoring the need to broaden the talent pool in step with the sector’s upward trajectory, which is likely to continue.

Three key findings came out of DPP’s analysis of the IT workforce pipeline. First, IT needs are a concern for Delaware employers, with a wide range of open roles at every level. Second, the speed at which technology is advancing and skill needs are changing is increasing IT needs. Third, there is a need to upskill those already in the workforce.

According to Charles Madden, DPP’s director of talent services, there are currently more tech jobs than there are people to fill them. Madden reasoned that the proper approach to solve this problem is to tap into new audiences to make more opportunities available for those who may be interested.

“This [strategy] is really an opportunity to give people who historically may not have seen themselves in it — or who may not have seen a pathway — an on-ramp into IT,” stated Madden.

Referring to DPP’s strategy, Madden described it as having two main components. The first is to develop a more robust training system for technical jobs. As the strategy reports, 80 percent of workers that will be needed in 10 years are already a part of the workforce, so upskilling will be critical. The second part of the strategy is to strengthen diversity by creating different pathways for people to be brought into tech fields.

The 11 recommendations that came out of this strategy fall into three key areas: foundational, system-level operations and policies; efforts to address the skills and training needed, with emphasis on representing women and people of color; and efforts to encourage diverse youth to participate in IT educational pathways.

The recommendations can be implemented at any level, Madden said — whether it be state government, private business or as an individual training institution. One recommendation, for example, is promoting new and existing mentoring programs and peer networks, especially those focused on promoting diversity in IT.

JPMorgan Chase initiated its support for the strategy by providing DPP with a $205,000 workforce readiness grant in 2019. The company has worked closely with DPP from its formation, being one of the founding supporters. Madden emphasized the importance of the partnership, stating that as one of the largest employers in Delaware, JPMorgan Chase will continually need to recruit additional talent.

Don Mell, Delaware site lead for JPMorgan Chase, acknowledged that the company could not make its own workforce more inclusive without making the prospective employee pool that the company is drawing from more inclusive. The effort will be beneficial to the entire tech sector, not only JPMorgan Chase, he said.

“But I think it’s really important that you have a critical mass of talent,” he explained. “If you’re going to be a player in this field, you’re going to have to diversify and expand your talent.”
Julia Edinger is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Toledo and has since worked in publishing and media. She's currently located in Southern California.