Indiana Workforce Development awards $400K to iDEW program
February 17, 2016
The Indiana University School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI received a $405,495 Skill Up Indiana grant from Indiana Workforce Development to support its Informatics Diversity-Enhanced Workforce (iDEW) program—a unique initiative that prepares a diverse cross section of Indianapolis high school students for careers in information technology.
“The Skill Up grant will provide significant program support to the iDEW program, which builds an IT talent pipeline in Indiana through innovative project-based learning over the four years of high school,” says Mathew Palakal, executive associate dean at the School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI, and program director for iDEW.
The program’s “wraparound” approach gives high school students in at-risk populations access to skills workshops, internships, professional certification training, campus and tech company visits, and special events, says Palakal. “Students work on socially relevant, real-world problems by learning and using informatics and computing technology, and through these learning experiences they are introduced to in-demand, lucrative career opportunities,” he says.
The iDEW program tackles two critical problems—a boom in information technology-related jobs that cannot be met by the current workforce, and a lack of representation in this job sector from Hispanic/Latino and African American workers. There were more than 10,000 computer and IT-related job openings in Central Indiana in the last year alone—a 54% increase over the last four years. Labor market data predict that by 2025, there will be more than 50,000 technology job openings in Central Indiana. But at the current rate of post-secondary degree talent in these fields, 45% of those jobs will not be filled by Indiana workers.
The Higher Education Research Institute’s Survey of American Freshmen indicated that Hispanic/Latino and African American interest in information technology is staggeringly low, particularly among females. In an effort to bridge that gap, the iDEW program focuses on high school populations that have higher concentrations of students from these groups. In its pilot years, the iDEW program has been working with students in three Indianapolis high schools—Arsenal Technical, Providence Cristo Rey, and Pike—to increase their interest in and access to careers in technology.
The program is pioneering because it maintains contact and engagement with these students over many years. “Personal interaction with the students over a sustained period of time is the key to making this program a success—repeated reinforcement and enrichment,” Palakal says.
This innovative, targeted approach to workforce issues in Indiana will continue to thrive through the support of outside partners like Indiana Workforce Development; the Interactive Intelligence Foundation; JPMorgan Chase & Co.; the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust; the Care Institute Group; The Cummins Foundation; the Nicholas H. Noyes, Jr., Memorial Foundation; the RB Annis Educational Foundation; the IU Foundation Women’s Philanthropy Leadership Council; and Old National Bank.