Nonprofit working to diversify Chicago's tech industry with free training program

CHICAGO (WLS) -- With only a GED, Shelton Banks managed to break into the tech industry years ago and move up the ranks. Now he's helping others like him do the same as the CEO of the Chicago nonprofit Rework Training.

"Tech companies all the time, say like hey we're looking for diversity, but they often make the excuse like we can't find diverse talent," he said.

But Banks said tech companies aren't looking in the right places. He also believes many Black and Latinx people don't know about the job opportunities, especially those from under-resourced communities like the one he grew up in on the South Side.

According to a 2021 report from P33 & Chicago Tech Talent Coalition, Black and Latinx Chicagoans represent only 14% of the tech workforce despite constituting two-thirds of the population of the city.

Rework Training offers a free training program to help people of color break into the tech industry. The positions are sales-related.

"So when most people when they think of tech they think of engineering, coding, things that you got to go to school for. And again, that's important," Banks said. "But companies don't make money by just building the software, like somebody has to go out and sell the software."

Since 2016 the nonprofit has helped place 200 people in positions at tech companies. On average the starting salaries are $55,000.

Jazz Burt is in the program now. She currently works in fast food. Burt said it was a no brainer to apply.

"I don't feel like I have anything to lose. I don't have anything now," she said. "So I'm like I'm going take the opportunity and I'm going to make sure I tell others about that opportunity. This is something that's important. This is something that could change a lot of lives out there."
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