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New Tech Council of Delaware aims to promote industry

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Zakiyyah Ali Tech Council of Delaware

Zakiyyah Ali, the executive director of Tech Council of Delaware, introduces the refocused group to stakeholders on March 29. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

WILMINGTON – While major state industries like life sciences, chemicals, poultry and banking have long had groups to advocate for their needs, technology has lagged in Delaware – but not anymore.

On Wednesday, the Tech Council of Delaware officially launched in a conference of about 125 tech and business leaders, workforce trainers and government officials.

“I believe Delaware is a tech hub,” said Pete Steiner, a veteran Delaware tech leader who has worked at major banks, now leads efforts at CSC and will co-chair the council’s leadership roundtable. “A passionate and focused group can change the world.”

Originally formed in 2020 under the umbrella of the Wilmington nonprofit Rodel Foundation as the Delaware IT Industry Council, the group has been rebranded as the Tech Council of Delaware. Last year, it hired Zakiyyah Ali, the former senior director of workforce development for the city of Philadelphia, to lead the organization as its first executive director.

About 125 industry professionals gathered in Wilmington to celebrate the launch of the Tech Council of Delaware on March 29. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

Over much of the last year, Ali built a new Tech Council team, networked with state industry leaders and prepared its offerings. The council will provide an online membership platform, routine training programs, information panels, lobbying efforts, and collaboration between industry, education and government.

Perhaps the most important early initiative is the First State Technology Partnership, which serves as a workforce intermediary that will screen and assess applicants, help design customized training programs and place graduates with employers in the state. It has already developed an advanced manufacturing program along with Bloom Energy and a cybersecurity program alongside ChristianaCare, CSC, Exelon and WSFS Bank.

“Part of what we do with First State Tech Partnership is not just to say we can help, but we’re inviting companies to be at the table with us. We want them to feel like FSTP is theirs as well. If they’re invested in building the talent that they desire, it’s going to stick,” Ali told Delaware Business Times.

Membership costs in the Tech Council range from $250 for companies down to $25 for individual tech professionals. Early members include CSC, M&T Bank, University of Delaware, Wilmington University and United Way of Delaware, although representatives from nearly every major state bank, IT firm and coding bootcamp were in attendance Wednesday.

Ali said she was “thrilled” with the turnout for their launch, and expected many more members to join soon as they promoted Delaware as a key tech hub of America.

Tariq Hook Code Differently Wilmington

Tariq Hook, co-founder of Code Differently in Wilmington explains the needs he sees in the IT industry during the Tech Council of Delaware launch. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

The arrival of the Tech Council is important, because Delaware is projecting growth rates of about 6% for data engineers, 7.3% for software developers and programmers, and 12% for information and cybersecurity professionals through 2027 – totalling more than 1,200 jobs.

“So, the choices before us as a state are to either sit on the sidelines and hope that employers fill those positions with the talent they need by continuing to operate in silos to produce talent or commit to working together in a unified manner, wherein we can maximize our respective strengths, align our resources and plan strategically to develop the diverse talent pipelines we need,” Ali said.

Tariq Hook, co-founder of the coding bootcamp Code Differently and a veteran IT professional, agreed with Ali, adding that Delaware can’t ask companies to come here if it can’t supply people who can do needed jobs. He noted the misconception that because young people grew up comfortable with technology that they could easily transition to tech jobs.

“Every company is a technology company, but every person isn’t ready to work in technology,” he said, noting that a spectrum of training programs would be necessary to prepare workers. “Why can’t Delaware be the first to have a critical mass of people that are prepared to go into these new technologies?”

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