MINNEAPOLIS — Saturday, the Minneapolis-based company Black Tech Talent hosted the first-ever Community TechFest. The event, held at Minneapolis College, featured demonstrations in robotics and virtual reality, aiming to connect BIPOC youth with opportunities in the technology industry.
According to a 2020 survey by Beam Jobs, Black Americans make up only 5% of employees in the technology industry nationwide. Mike Jackson, founder of Black Tech Talent, hopes to close the diversity gap.
"A lot of times, technology can be intimidating, especially to the Black community," Jackson said. "There’s things like impostor syndrome, there’s things like accessibility."
Part of Jackson's company's mission is to create access to technology for parents and their children, "so that parents, even if they’re not in tech...can nurture their children and can understand what these career opportunities there are."
Leo Searcy, an eighth grader in the Minneapolis Public School district, said he came for the electronics.
"I'm a huge gaming nerd," Searcy said. "I love technology."
Searcy, 13, said he hopes to eventually turn his hobby into a career.
"I've just always wanted to make video games for other people," Searcy said. "Having Black people lead this kind of thing, it's like really awesome to me."
One of the organizations represented at Saturday's event was Minnesota Esports Club, a nonprofit that promotes colleges scholarship and skill building through gaming.
"We provide coaching, we provide content creation, we provide community managers and support to have kids have a path to higher education through esports," said founder and executive director Peter Young.
Young said his organization partners with the Phyllis Wheatley Community Center and various metro parks and recreation departments to directly engage BIPOC youth in esports.
"A lot of the kids have not had access to the PCs, equipment, the consoles, everything they need to be successful in that endeavor," he said.
At the event Saturday, Black Tech Talent revealed a brand new super hero they spent months creating: Black Circuit. A video of the reveal is below.
Jackson said it's all part of his goal to curate a pipeline of job opportunities and create "culturally-specific content."
"Let people see representation of themselves at all levels," Jackson said. "Whether it's the consumer, the creator, or the visionary who puts together a team."