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Target partners with group founded by Van Jones to diversify tech job candidates

Nick WIlliams, Star Tribune on

Published in Business News

A recently created partnership is giving Black and Latino people in the Twin Cities an opportunity to earn high-paying tech jobs at one of the region's largest employers.

Minneapolis-based Target Corp. and Dream Corps — an Oakland, Calif.-based nonprofit founded by CNN political commentator Van Jones that was initially supported heavily by music legend Prince — are working together on the Target Cohort Partnership, a paid 10-week training program for potential job roles in software engineering at Target.

The first cohort from the Dream Corps' TECH program of 19 candidates — 10 of which had little to no experience in tech fields — completed training in December, said Kasheef Wyzard, the national programming initiatives director at Dream Corps. Target hired 18 of the graduates in roles from full-time software engineers to paid interns at the company's headquarters.

"My time in the Dream Corps TECH cohort at Target was one of the most challenging yet empowering experiences I've ever gone through," said Melita Eyton, a Target software engineer and Dream Corps TECH alumni. "The program is helping shape the future of tech and it has changed my life.

The organization is currently accepting applications for a second cohort that will begin later this year.

The partnership with Dream Corps enables Target to simultaneously address three challenges: finding software engineer candidates in the Twin Cities market, diversifying the company's tech workforce and achieving equity in the metro, said Mike McNamara, the retailer's chief information officer.

 

McNamara joined Target in 2015 and said demand for software engineers, and the number of people working in those roles within the company, has increased each year.

"And I don't see that stopping," he said.

The 4,000 or so people working in software, data analytics and other tech roles at Target are responsible for the backbone of some of the company's core business functions such as digital sales, supply chain and marketing, McNamara said.

Typically, companies recruit their software talent from a pool of individuals with four-year college degrees in computer science. That pool, however, is becoming more shallow as demand for tech professionals increases throughout the region, the nation and across the globe.

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