Lancaster Tech Industry Partnership

The Lancaster Tech Industry Partnership held its first meeting Monday, Nov. 11, 2019, in downtown Lancaster with special guest Judd Pittman, Pennsylvania's special consultant to the secretary of education on STEM. 

Lancaster County has launched Pennsylvania’s first technology industry partnership in response to the growing demand of computer science-related careers.

More than 20 experts from the tech, education, health care and nonprofit sectors gathered for the first time Monday to brainstorm ways to cultivate and retain diverse talent in the tech industry.

“There is nothing in this world that is untouched by technology,” said Charlie Reisinger, Penn Manor School District’s technology director and one of a handful of partnership members. “So, frankly, this is the most important conversation we can be having when it comes to the future of Lancaster.”

Among the two most high-demand jobs in Lancaster County, according to the local workforce development board, are computer systems analysts and computer user support specialists. From 2014 to 2024, those jobs are projected to grow by 22% and 10%, respectively.

But businesses struggle to recruit talent — especially diverse talent. Thus the Lancaster Tech Industry Partnership was born, thanks to a $50,000 PA Smart grant from the state.

Joel Walker, founder of Lancaster-based tech company Industrial Resolution, and Paul Champion, CEO of Baltimore-based TranZed Apprenticeships, worked through the Lancaster County Workforce Development Board to receive the grant and get the partnership on its feet.

Walker and Champion said building tech apprenticeships — of which there are none in Pennsylvania — is one potential solution to finding and developing talent, but improving curriculum and access to high-quality education are other initial objectives.

Attracting diversity

They’re trying to change the stereotype of the typical industry worker: a white male with a college degree.

Walker said he hopes the group will grow and attract more diverse members, but he admitted that there were very few minorities leading local companies. And he wants to change that.

“I crave their voice at the table,” Walker said.

School District of Lancaster, which has an initiative to give every student an iPad and is enhancing its computer science curriculum as part of a five-year tech plan, may play an integral role in that.

Two district representatives — McCaskey East High School Associate Principal Luis Diaz and instructional technology coordinator Jessica Garrigan — attended Monday’s meeting.

They said they’re trying to make tech jobs “cool” and, perhaps more importantly, attainable in the eyes of students who may sell themselves short because of their socioeconomic status.

“What’s in front of them now are many different pathways, and tech is one they should strongly consider,” Diaz said.