A key step in addressing the tech talent gap is bringing together academic institutions, students, and employers to shed light on in-demand skills, jobs, and career pathways in the region. Greater Washington Partnership, an alliance of the region’s leading employers, launched the Capital CoLAB to do just that.
Across the Capital Region, 60,000 tech and tech adjacent positions risk going unfilled annually by 2025. Closing this gap is a challenge with many layers, and it requires cross-sector engagement and systemic and strategic, scaled approaches to connect workers with employers.
The CoLAB aims to build the Capital Region’s diverse digital tech ecosystem by partnering with employers and educators to build industry-aligned digital tech pathways that ensure inclusive growth, with the ultimate goal of developing the most diverse tech workforce in the country.
To advance its vision and mission, CoLAB launched the Digital Tech Credential Scholarship in 2021 to encourage students from underrepresented communities in tech to pursue industry aligned coursework. Regionally, Black and Hispanic workers are underrepresented in the tech workforce, with 17% of the tech workforce comprised of Black employees and 5% of Hispanic employees, despite making up 25% and 9% of the total workforce respectively. In the 2021-2022 academic year, CoLAB university partners awarded 73 scholarships to students pursuing digital tech coursework: 48% of those students were first-generation college students, 60% were women, and 77% were from racial and ethnic backgrounds underrepresented in tech.
We partnered with Monumental Sports & Entertainment to host the inaugural Student Career Exploration & Game Day at the Capital One Arena on Saturday, October 8th to highlight how digital tech skillsets—including data analysis, cybersecurity, and visualization—fuel an array of industries and career pathways across the Capital Region. This event is the first of its kind for CoLAB’s Scholarship cohort, and we would like to thank Monumental for their support and commitment to our scholarship students.
Monumental Sports & Entertainment, who serves on the Greater Washington Partnership Board of Directors, is one of the leading employers in the DC area and the ownership brand behind many incredible sports teams including the Washington Capitals, Mystics, and Wizards. The company also owns the Capital One Arena and generously invited Digital Tech Credential Scholarship students for an event consisting of an arena tour, a career panel and networking session, and complimentary tickets to a Capitals game vs. the Columbus Blue Jackets.
“The CoLAB Scholarship is so important because it connects students with coursework that teaches the digital skills that Monumental Sports & Entertainment and other employers need now and in the future. By taking this coursework, students demonstrate a commitment to their career growth, and we hope that events like this will show students all of the professional opportunities available to them—not just in the sports industry, but across all industries in the Capital Region.”
— Monica Dixon, President, External Affairs and Chief Administrative Officer, Monumental Sports & Entertainment
The afternoon brought together students from seven universities across the Capital Region including American University, Gallaudet University, University of the District of Columbia, Bowie State University, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Tech, and Marymount University. During the arena tour, students went behind the scenes, getting the opportunity to see the press box and even the Wizards locker room. They then heard from a dynamic panel of speakers including Kameron Florence, VP of Ticket Sales & Service, Greg Turner, Senior Director of Suite Sales and Staff Development, Andrew McNeill, Senior Director of Esports, and Matthew Vinson, Senior Director of Digital Marketing. Each of these panelists work in a field that requires them to use technology, and they spoke to the different ways they utilize tech and digital skills daily. Students had the opportunity to ask panelists about career paths and network with each other and industry professionals throughout the session.
Student feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with several students citing important career learnings.
“During the panel, one of the speakers said that you should go on LinkedIn, find someone in a position of power located within 20 miles of your school, invite them for a cup of coffee and really put yourself out there and build those connections within your industry. I think that was super important and I’m definitely going to do that when I get back home.”
— Christopher Rule, senior at American University
“The Digital Tech Credential and scholarship has helped me to branch out my knowledge in data and analytics. I really enjoyed this session tonight. Learning about these positions within the DC area that actually deal with data in some aspect of their career was really insightful and exciting.”
— Madison Rose, Bowie State University
We hope that this event will be the first of several to engage CoLAB’s Digital Tech Credential Scholarship students, introduce them to an array of companies and career opportunities here in the Capital Region, and show the range of career paths that rely on tech and tech adjacent skillsets. The Partnership is also thrilled to be able to help employers connect with students and build a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive talent pipeline as they address their most critical talent needs. We believe that the most competitive economies are also the most inclusive. Ensuring students who attend school in the Capital Region can see a career here is one step in that direction.
If you are an employer looking to engage with students pursuing industry-validated, digital tech coursework across CoLAB’s 22 university partners, please reach out to Capital CoLAB ([email protected]) to learn more.