COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — With the city of Columbus preparing for massive economic growth due to investments from Intel and Honda, one local initiative is bringing racial and gender diversity into the conversation.

“We need to make sure that our city represents our citizens, which means that women of color need to be in that space,” said Jenn Fowler Howard, managing director for Per Scholas Columbus, a non-profit organization that provides tuition-free learning to the community.

Earlier this year, Howard said the organization created a program called Tech Women of Color Alliance, which offers training and job placement assistance in the tech industry for women of color.

Funding for the program is provided by the Franklin County Board of Commissioners through the American Rescue Plan, which she said is helping the program reach a number of goals.

“To serve 200 women over the next two years, and getting them connected to their dreams, getting them financial security, helping them to care for their families, and also giving them an opportunity to be successful,” Howard said.

Nine women graduated from the program last week.

“It’s a huge burden lifted off of me because I was hopping around from colleges,” said Jazemon Robinson, a wife, mother, and graduate of the Tech Women of Color Alliance.

She said due to student loans and taking care of her family, she had to set aside her ambitions for a while. But through the program, was able to get a chance to re-enter the workforce in something she’s passionate about.

“This program has definitely given me the opportunity to find my confidence, and be confident in going back into the workforce, so I know that I have the skills to step up to it,” Robinson said.

The program is also designed to work around any potential barriers facing women of color, such as flexible hours for childcare and mentorship courses after graduation.

“So we were very intentional in how we structured the day, to make sure that they were able to do the things that they needed to do, so that they could, with ease, sit in a classroom seat and learn the material,” Howard said.

“The morning class is from 10 (a.m.) to 3 (p.m.), and the night class is from 3 (p.m.) to 8 (p.m.), so they are entry-level courses, so if you are interested or have a passion for technology, then this is perfect for you,” said Chelsey Williams, program manager for Tech Women of Color.

The next course for Tech Women of Color begins on Jan. 23, 2023, and will run for 15 weeks.

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