Miami and South Florida have reached a critical juncture with the rapid growth of the tech sector. This comes with a unique set of challenges and opportunities.
Careers in the tech industry are more accessible locally — and in larger numbers. But this upside could be outweighed by a tremendous challenge. Local tech-sector growth already lacks diversity, equity and inclusion. This could accelerate economic stratification and occupational segregation.
Critics already charge that efforts to bring Silicon Valley to the city of Miami have contributed to escalating rental and housing prices. Many current residents could be forced move out of the city.
To be clear, the influx of tech-oriented companies should be embraced. This is not a time to step back. The challenge, however, is taking an all-inclusive step forward. New strategic partnerships that penetrate underrepresented communities are crucial.
The high-stakes game is on. It’s crucial to integrate adult learners into the tech ecosystem and prepare younger people to be included in the economy of the future. A new collaboration between Venture Miami, a task force to guide Miami’s tech movement, and the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project, a dropout prevention and mentorship program is an important step.
The project targets young men of color and currently has chapters in 117 Miami-Dade County Public Schools. The partnership is a pivotal vehicle to help prepare thousands of young men to walk through the gates of tech opportunity.
This partnership will kick off on Oct. 27, with a cutting-edge Innovation Tour for students from five urban high schools, with a discussion about Miami’s tech industry with Mayor Francis Suarez. Students also will visit AEXLAB, a virtual reality start-up, and media company Motorsport Network.
The collaboration will show young men the requirements of tech jobs and generate new tech dreams. Combined with higher education, internships and other opportunities to learn, this is a winning ticket in the tech-job lottery.
This developmental process — preparation that leads to being attaining the qualifications for gainful employment — must include the political will to be inclusive of the entire community.
Minorities will realize rapid progress in the tech space with intentional efforts to guarantee diversity, equity and inclusion. Digital tools, skills training and early-access internships are among such efforts that will empower young people to punch their own admission ticket into tech sector prosperity.
The upcoming Innovation Tour has the potential to be a defining moment for the city that can help generate the momentum to build bridges to a better way of life for all Miamians.
Marcus Bright, Ph.D. is district administrator with the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project.