The Crusader Newspaper Group

Opportunity is calling: Gary, Indiana needs to answer it

By State Senator Eddie Melton

If you’re like me, you’re tired of seeing opportunities for good paying jobs and meaningful careers pass by people in our community. On December 7th, we had a chance to change that by participating in a Design Session being offered by InnoPower, TechPoint and Center of Workforce Innovations.

The meeting was a “Design Thinking” session focused on developing tech talent right here in Gary. Local thought leaders and game changers gathered at John Will Anderson Boys & Girls Club’s Best Buy Teen Tech Center.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Great. Another meeting where people talked on and on about the same old problems when what we really need are jobs. Good jobs. Right now.”

Here’s why this meeting was different. TechPoint focuses on helping Indiana tech companies grow and on finding the people those companies need to do their work and keep growing. InnoPower focuses on finding opportunities for Black people to succeed. And as we already know, CWI focuses on matching Northwest Indiana job seekers and career changers to good jobs.

So, these organizations that can help regional people get great jobs convened us to ask how we can help them do that better. For us.

TechPoint’s research shows what we have all known: there aren’t many Black people working in tech jobs or even working toward a career in the Indiana tech sector. Rather than assume these organizations know how to fix this situation, they’re asking us what’s keeping us from getting those good jobs and getting the training and education we need to succeed in tech careers.

We all shared our experiences and those of others we know. Several great ideas about how to change things surfaced.

InnoPower and TechPoint are hosting two other meetings – one in Fort Wayne and one in Indianapolis – and they’ll take what they learn there to create a plan. They’re doing this as part of a bigger goal to add 41,000 people to the Indiana tech workforce by 2030, an initiative they are calling “Mission41K.”

Melton BlackTech 03

If we don’t speak up, you can bet it won’t be Black Hoosiers getting those jobs. Here’s the current situation:

Ten million out of the 16 million Black people who are currently working have skills earned through routes like military service, certificate programs and community colleges that qualify them for higher-paying jobs than what they currently have. These folks often don’t get better jobs, though, because of long standing hiring practices that keep them from being considered.

Why? Because while many jobs in tech don’t require all the education that comes with a college degree, job descriptions usually require college degrees.

You already know this: 70 percent of Black workers don’t have college degrees. So even if we learned tech skills on the job, or in the military, or even taught ourselves, we’re not considered for jobs or promotions because we don’t meet that degree requirement.

TechPoint has spent the better part of this year encouraging companies to change the way they hire, putting an emphasis on experience and ability rather than college degrees, as well as helping colleges and training organizations bring more Black Hoosiers into programs where they can earn the certificates and training to do a wide range of tech jobs. I’m sure you’ll hear more about Mission41K at the meeting.

What they needed to hear from us now is what’s keeping us from getting that training, experience or education.

Did Gary residents leave this meeting with a great job they could start the next day? No. But we all left with a better chance of getting a career in tech soon – or better chances for our youth to get them.

Melton BlackTech 02

It was a great day for Gary and I am so excited by what the future holds and ready to take the next steps in this journey. A sincere thank you to InnoPower, TechPoint and CWI for hosting this community design session and to the community leaders who took time to contribute to this process to develop black tech talent here in Gary.

Recent News

Scroll to Top