(Photo by Tony Abraham)
Patrick Callihan looked out over three hundred men and women seated within the lavish Crystal Tea Room, all dressed up and dining on fine cuisine. Simply by attending this awards luncheon, the attendees raised over $250,000 for Tech Impact, the nonprofit where Callihan serves as executive director.
Outside the glamour and glitz of the posh banquet hall, tens of thousands of at-risk young adults across the region remain unemployed. Callihan’s task was to prove that the quarter of a million dollars raised was going towards getting those individuals sustainable tech jobs.
“What has happened here over the past year?” Callihan asked the room. Most of the room knew — they’ve been a part of it.
Besides providing over 100 nonprofits with IT services through Help Desk and training 100 young adults for IT jobs through ITWorks in this past year, Tech Impact is making strides in their expansion into Las Vegas and is wrapping up the pilot class of their 90-day coding bootcamp, Zip Code Wilmington in Delaware.
It’s strategic partnerships like the ones Tech Impact has created with corporations like SAP, CapitalOne, Bank of America and JPMorganChase that allow for the nonprofit to make significant economic and social impact. Callihan said their corporate sponsors for both ITWorks and Zip Code Wilmington have invested in the nonprofit by hiring from their developing talent pool.
Tech Impact has found a way to make their accelerated job training programs lucrative. The key to this year’s developments and expansions, Callihan said, are part of a three-step process adhered by their board:
- Is there a need for the training?
- Are there local job opportunities for the trainees?
- Is there local financial support to fund the program?
“Our services will grow by nearly 50% this year,” Callihan said. “We now have trained over 200 folks through our ITWorks program, and we’re on a trajectory to train as many individuals in the next year alone.”
Every year, Tech Impact recognizes individuals by doling out awards. This year’s award winners were:
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- Volunteer Impact Award: Anne Marie Kaplan (Manager, IT Support at Reed Technology and Information Services)
- Founders Award: Randy Gaboriault (Senior VP of Innovation and Strategic Development at Christiana Care Health Systems)
- Community Impact Award: John Leffer (SAP Practice Leader at IBM)
Leffler, who passed earlier this year, had his award presented by SAP’s Stephen Shander.
“There’s nothing he cared more about than helping young people get an education, and he often talked about it,” Shander said. “This award to John is in honor of his leadership that ensured nonprofits had the technology they need, and the success of the ITworks program.”
The potential impact of that access to technology should not be understated. It’s a sentiment shared often by data scientist, social entrepreneur and angel investor Jon Gosier, who gave a keynote speech at the luncheon. Access to technology if only for the sake of experimentation is “incredibly important,” he said, and he knows firsthand.
“Growing up in Albany, Georgia, I didn’t have very many examples of technology, but I had some early introductions. That early access was incredibly important to what would come later,” said the D8A founder, recalling putting together his family’s first computer at age 11.
“That early introduction and having access to this computer changed my life — just having the machine in the house,” he said. “No mentor, no adviser, but I still became obsessed with computers and making this thing work in the way I wanted it to. It was a stimulus for my imagination.”
Gosier then went on to provide three insights into how to shepherd in the next class of young entrepreneurs:
- Early access to technology
- Early access to examples of the use of technology
- The freedom to experiment with that technology
“Not everyone has these opportunities. Doing those things is what brings me here today,” he said. “It was the opportunity to try and fail again that was the motivator for me.”
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