This Jobs Program Could Give Silicon Valley A Diversity Boost

CREDIT: AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

An activist cheers during a rally after the New York Wage Board endorsed a proposal to set a $15 minimum wage for workers at fast-food restaurant chains.

Young, unemployed, underemployed, and disabled workers no longer have to be limited to earning minimum wage, according to the White House.

TechHire, a $100 million nationwide federal grant jobs program launched in March, began accepting applications Tuesday from private companies committed to training youth between age 17 and 29, low-income, disabled, and workers with limited English proficiency for careers in information technology.

The U.S. unemployment rate continues to hover at 5 percent at 7.9 million people, and with job gains typically occurring in lower-wage or temporary sectors including retail, food and beverage, and construction, according to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics’ November jobs report.

Blacks and Latinos are disproportionately and negatively affected, making up nearly 16 percent or 1.3 million people of the unemployed population.

Blacks comprise only 13 percent of the U.S. population, surpassed by Latinos, who make up 17 percent. The two groups also tend to make minimum or low wages at disproportionately higher rates: Nearly one in three earning the minimum wage or lower are black or Latino, according to the 2014 BLS minimum wage data, which contributes to a cycle of poverty.

TechHire aims to be a liaison between marginalized and underrepresented communities and the booming tech industry. There are more than 500,000 jobs in tech such as IT, software development, and cybersecurity, and earn wages 50 percent higher than average, the White House said in a statement Tuesday announcing the opening of TechHire’s application process.

Five-hundred companies have joined the effort along with 35 cities, states, and rural communities. The White House aims to partner with a total of 40 communities by the end of the year.