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Jobs For The Future (JFF), a national nonprofit driving transformation in the American workforce and education systems, has announced a $500,000 partnership with Comcast NBCUniversal to support research that will identify promising evidence, practices, and policies that create the conditions for advancement of Black learners and workers in technology and digital fields.

Black workers are underrepresented in technology careers. In the U.S., people who self-identify as Black make up 12.4 percent of the population, but just 7.4 percent of the tech industry workforce, and women of color overall accounted for just 4 percent. While Black students made up 6 percent of the computer science and engineering graduates, they were only 3 percent of the total Silicon Valley workforce. That reality poses a risk of growing occupational segregation, as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that growth in IT occupations will continue to outpace the broader economy through 2029.

“Even with similar education and training, Black technology professionals earn less than White peers across nearly all education levels,” said Michael Collins, a vice president at JFF. “We want to promote Black economic advancement by interrupting the long-standing pattern of Black learners and workers being concentrated in industries associated with low wages and more susceptible to disruption by technology and automation. In an era where digital and IT skills are in demand across a wide range of industries, we hope that this work will lead us to a deeper understanding of not just barriers, but practices that unlock the potential of Black talent.”

In an effort to uncover opportunities that can strengthen pathways to economic advancement for Black learners and workers in the digital economy, a team of experts in research, public policy, and systems change at JFF will evaluate a wide range of hiring, training, talent development, and other practices throughout the next several months. They will work to identify promising evidence of strategies that create the conditions for increased economic equity. This research will be shaped by insights from a cross-sector and multi-industry advisory council of Black leaders who will further inform and create a framework for economic mobility for Black Americans.

“To support this work, we sought out a strategic partner who drives meaningful progress by working across sectors. JFF knows how to navigate the complex intersection of learning and employment, and they also have experience exploring the human dimensions of systemic challenges,” said Dalila Wilson-Scott, executive vice president and chief diversity officer of Comcast Corporation. “Michael Collins brings a systems-level understanding of the ways in which education and training can increase access and success in high-wage, high-demand industries.”

Comcast NBCUniversal’s partnership with JFF is an extension of the company’s ongoing commitment to digital equity, including its $1 billion pledge over the next 10 years to further close the digital divide in communities across the country with a focus on helping to ensure those facing the greatest barriers have the skills, tools, and resources necessary to benefit from the expanding digital economy.