Photo by Brian Conway.

Pittsburgh’s technology sector continues to be one of the most prosperous and fast-growing parts of our local economy. But so far, the gains have not been equally shared.

Locally, we see many of the same issues that dog big tech nationwide: The majority of computer science degrees are still being awarded to white men, while women and minority programmers consistently are paid less than their white peers.

It’s a problem that the Allentown-based business and talent incubator Work Hard Pittsburgh has been attacking since 2012 in the Hilltop neighborhoods along Mt. Washington. Now, with a large cash infusion from local charities, the cooperatively-owned enterprise is expanding its outreach in the chronically underserved communities of southern Pittsburgh.

“Work Hard Pittsburgh is providing real opportunity,” said Maximilian Dennison, digital inclusion and equity coordinator with the City of Pittsburgh and an executive committee member for Work Hard. “Not only economically, but through inclusivity. And we’ve made a decision to be intentional about it.”

Yesterday, Work Hard Pittsburgh announced that they’d received a gift of $950,000 from the Hillman Foundation and The Heinz Endowments to support job training programs over the next two years. The Millvale-based community development group New Sun Rising is also collaborating on the expansion.

In the first year, 80 individuals will participate in job training programs with contracted partners, including the Academy PGH coding academy and Work Hard Pittsburgh. The initiative will offer equitable access to training, apprenticeships, and living wage job placement in tech and tech-adjacent industries.

The curriculum for the training programs will be based partly on Academy PGH’s 12-week intensive coding course, which has placed 80 alumni in full-time careers since 2016.

While anyone can apply, half of the available spots in the courses will be reserved for members of groups that are traditionally underrepresented in the tech world.

“Much of the disparity we see in who benefits from the tech economy can be linked to a lack of access,” said Scott Wolovich, executive director of New Sun Rising. “It is encouraging to see this significant investment in training and placement programs that are embedded within the community and directly informed by industry need.”

Bill O'Toole was a full-time reporter for NEXTpittsburgh until October, 2019. He previously reported in Myanmar.