In late 2019, Delaware was enjoying some the lowest unemployment levels in the state’s history. The state’s largest city, Wilmington, boasted a thriving tech sector, built on its strengths in business and financial services, that supported $65 million in wages and 17,000 jobs. Yet despite these favorable economic conditions, employers struggled to find the tech talent they required and these high-demand, high wage jobs remained out of reach for the state’s less-advantaged citizens and residents of color. At the same time, these traditionally under-served populations struggled to connect with the state’s robust network of training institutions and workforce development resources.
The Delaware Prosperity Partnership engaged TIP Strategies (TIP) to identify strategies that can help deliver improved job outcomes for a broad group of residents, particularly individuals from low-income communities and those with barriers to employment (such as criminal backgrounds). Funded by a workforce readiness grant from the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, the effort represented a collaboration of government, employers, nonprofits, higher education institutions, and social impact enterprises. The work focused on two objectives for increasing diversity: developing a more robust and flexible IT talent training system and enhancing the on ramps to this system for underrepresented populations and rural communities. In addition to preparing a tech talent profile for the state, engaging a broad cross-section of stakeholders, and researching national best practices, TIP provided recommendations across three areas: system level operations and policies, upskilling and retraining existing workers, and expanding career opportunities for youth. The strategy also considered the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the state’s workforce system and the accelerated adoption and utilization of IT across all of Delaware’s key industries.