HERA initiative aims to help grow tech talent pool

A regional educational initiative involving UWM has launched a new effort designed to help develop a talent pool to fill high-tech jobs in southeastern Wisconsin.

The Higher Educational Regional Alliance (HERA) awarded 70 students from high schools, colleges and universities with “badges” after they participated in the MKE Tech Hub Coalition pre-internship program on ethics and the impact of data and artificial intelligence. A badge is a certification of certain skills that recipients can add to their resumes.

Eleven UWM students were among the recipients of the Foundations in Data and Artificial Intelligence badge awarded by HERA, which is a regional collaboration of 18 public and private higher education institutions, along with partner organizations.

“Many of our industry partners shared the need they have for more talent in data and AI among all industries,” said Phyllis King, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs at UWM. “Because of this, we partnered with the MKE Tech Hub Coalition to create a new micro-credentialing and badging program that helps train future talent in Southeastern Wisconsin.

“With this badge certification, students can now showcase the knowledge they need to fill the jobs of tomorrow,” King said.

The Milwaukee region is forecast to have about 31,000 unfilled tech jobs by 2024, according to MKE Tech Hub Coalition, a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing the tech talent pool in the region. The shortage mirrors a national trend.

Another report from CompTIA, an information technology trade association, said Milwaukee topped the list for midmarket metros with the highest growth in tech job postings in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the fourth quarter of 2020.

“Helping the next generation leverage the power of technology is incredibly important for our region,” said Matthew Friedel, senior lecturer at UWM and curriculum director at the MKE Tech Hub Coalition.

The badge can help students stand out when they apply for internships or jobs, HERA said. It may also amount to college credit at select higher education institutions.

“The level of regional collaboration involved in developing and executing this early talent program is a testament to its relevance as we consider how we prepare students for the future of work in a digital economy,” said Laura Schmidt, chief talent development officer at MKE Tech Hub Coalition.

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