The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Microsoft Corp. announced investments in new programs on Thursday with the purpose of making South Florida’s talent pool more competitive in an increasingly technology-driven economy.
In two separate grants, the funds will be used to launch Wyncode Academy’s Future Leaders of Miami Technology Fellowship and Code/Art’s Empowering Art Teachers to Inspire Next Generation Coders program. Both programs have the goal of providing technology education to low-income, underrepresented residents in the tri-county area.
“We’re investing in the talent pipeline,” said Raul Moas, Knight Foundation’s Miami program director. “Our startup community is growing and we want to make sure many more people can participate in the benefits the knowledge economy provides,” such as high-wage jobs in growing industries that are difficult to obtain in service industries like hospitality that remain dominant in the local market.
Wyncode’s fellowship offers full scholarships for the Miami-based coding academy’s full-time web development programs. Tuition is typically priced at $15,000. South Florida residents can apply at Wyncode.co/FutureLeaders.
Applicants must belong to an underrepresented group in Miami’s technology ecosystem, have under $50,000 in combined family income, have limited to no post-secondary education and be authorized to work in the U.S. The deadline to apply for next three cohorts is March 20. There will be more opportunities later in the year.
Microsoft and Knight Foundation’s backing will sponsor 10 low-income Miami-Dade County residents to enroll free of charge.
“This allows them to stay in the market and help build a diverse tech ecosystem. That’s hard to do that when there aren’t opportunities,” said Wyncode CEO and co-founder Johanna Mikkola. “South Florida’s competitive advantage is in keeping and attracting diverse talent. We know that overall, it brings together more perspectives, and that builds better products and better businesses.”
As part of the fellowship program, Wyncode is seeking South Florida companies as partners in providing opportunities for the graduates, such as internships and jobs.
“We’re looking for companies that are interesting in hiring diverse teams to take on these scholars,” said Juha Mikkola, co-founder of Wyncode, who oversees the Future Leaders of Miami Technology Fellowship.
As part of the Code/Art program, 60 Miami-Dade County public school art teachers will teach subjects like basic coding skills to girls and minorities who have limited to no access to computer science classes. The nonprofit will receive $240,000 — which includes $120,000 from Microsoft and matching funds from Knight Foundation — in a program aimed at introducing computing skills to underserved residents.
“These investments we’re making public aren’t going to be one-off projects, they are true partnerships. We’re participants in this ecosystem,” said Lucas Hernández, Microsoft’s civic engagement leader for Miami. “This is a credit to CodeArt, they developed this. They’re helping to elevate the conversation not only in Miami, but Microsoft’s strategy in this field as well.”
CodeArt’s program is the first of its kind in the cities where Microsoft has deployed civic engagement leaders, Hernández said.
Microsoft’s investments in Wyncode and CodeArt’s programs are among the first of such investments the software giant (Nasdaq: MSFT) has made public in Miami, where it deployed Miami resident Hernandez in the role about six months ago.
Miami is one of ten cities with civic engagement leaders from Microsoft. They are also working in known technology hubs such as Boston, San Francisco and New York.
There is a growing number of private-sector investors such as Microsoft and the Knight Foundation that are bullish on shaping Miami into a smart city through initiatives that bolster its technology and startup sectors, while improving the lives of its citizens.
“We’re looking forward to doing more with the Knight Foundation and with other funders who are interesting in bringing more resources to our community,” Hernández said.