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Tech nonprofit launches multiyear career pipeline effort that aims to be a first for Philly

This career pipeline “is a long-term initiative, and it will happen over the course of many years,” said CEO Sylvester Mobley of Coded by Kids. “It’s something that hasn’t been done in Philly so far.”

Sylvester Mobley works with Marlowe Whittenberg , 8, at a Coded by Kids workshop at the Marian Anderson Recreation Center.
Sylvester Mobley works with Marlowe Whittenberg , 8, at a Coded by Kids workshop at the Marian Anderson Recreation Center.Read moreSteven M. Falk / File Photograph

Tech nonprofit Coded by Kids has launched an ambitious citywide education initiative to nurture tech talent among Philadelphia’s communities of color, starting in high schools, but extending eventually to college students and adults.

The effort is being supported by nearly $1 million from corporate and other partners seeking to support the mission of providing a career path in tech for underrepresented communities in the sector. The initiative, dubbed OnE Philadelphia, is backed by Bank of America, Comcast NBCUniversal, and the Lenfest Foundation.

“At the heart of my work as founder and CEO of Coded by Kids is my commitment to building one Philadelphia,” Sylvester Mobley, head of the nonprofit, said in a statement. “When you look at our city, there are two vastly different realities that Philadelphians experience that are connected to the color of their skin.” A call seeking further comment from Mobley was not immediately returned.

Mobley told the tech news site that this $1 million program is just the beginning of a long-range effort. “We’re trying to address systemic inequity. It’s not a 12-month program,” he said. “People have to be willing to dig in for the long haul. It’s a long-term initiative, and it will happen over the course of many years. It’s something that hasn’t been done in Philly so far, and we have to get people to buy into it, and have to look to long-term outcomes.”

The program’s pilot phase will be aimed at about 75 high school students in Philly public schools and provide mentoring, internships, and classroom training, said Dalila Wilson-Scott, executive vice president and chief diversity officer at Comcast. The curriculum will be tailored to the workforce needs of employers with the ultimate goal of ushering participants into jobs such as developer, help desk, and digital and graphic design roles, she added.

“Given what we do, we believe that our support of digital equity is important, now more than ever,” Wilson-Scott said.

Despite the Coded by Kids name, the ultimate ambitions of OnE Philadelphia are not confined just to young people, said Jim Dever, Greater Philadelphia market president for Bank of America. “Black and brown communities are a woeful percentage of tech jobs,” Dever said. “The key focus is around youth, but it’s broader than that. Philadelphia is one of the poorer cities and that has to change.”

Future phases of the program will be open to college students and adults as the initiative seeks to counter “short-term solutions to systemic racial inequity” by building a “pipeline for high-level tech talent and tech start-up leaders,” according to a statement unveiling the effort released Wednesday.

According to the organization’s website, Coded by Kids, founded in 2014, provides youth from underrepresented groups between the ages of 8 and 18 with education in software development, digital design, computer science, and entrepreneurship. The organization has worked with more than 700 students throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.

The Future of Work is produced with support from the William Penn Foundation and the Lenfest Institute for Journalism. Editorial content is created independently of the project’s donors. The Lenfest Institute is independent of the Lenfest Foundation.