Building the Next Tech Workforce Before They Opt Out

As the tech skills gap widens, and Minnesotan businesses miss out on growth opportunities due to a lack of skilled workforce, the importance of bringing young people into technology curriculums becomes even more critical. We need to build the next generation of our tech workforce before they opt out of tech careers due to a lack of information, hands-on tech experience, and exposure to tech professionals. Learn about programs your business and employees can get involved with to inspire tweens, teens, and youth. By instilling confidence in their use of technology and introducing them to adult mentors who are living that life, we can change the future and bring more young people into the tech workforce. Hear what’s working already in Minnesota to build the next generation with speakers from Best Buy’s Teen Tech Centers, Target and TechGirlz, and others in this Tech Cities session moderated by Sue Wallace of Creating IT Futures.

Sue Wallace

Executive Director, National Workforce Solutions - Creating IT Futures

Sue Wallace is responsible for Creating IT Futures' adult workforce program including program enhancements, expansion to new markets, and overseeing ongoing operations nationally. Sue started her professional career in the IT industry and moved on to spend nearly 14 years in nonprofit workforce development before joining Creating IT Futures. She holds both a bachelor’s and a master’s degrees from Ball State University. She is actively involved in her community and enjoys spending time with her husband and three boys.

Amy Cliett

National Director - TechGirlz

Amy has an extensive background in operations management, which paved the way for her work in streamlining innovative processes for large organizations and startups. In 2014, Amy made the bold choice to pursue a career in tech, becoming a self-taught freelance web developer. Since then, Amy has worked throughout the US as a passionate hacktivist in the tech inclusion and diversity in STEAM fields movement. As the National Director of Techgirlz, Amy works to inspire middle school girls to explore the possibilities of technology to empower their future careers.

Joana Cruz

Lead Engineer / eMIP Sr Engineering Manager - Target

Joana Cruz is a lead engineer in Digital Guest Security Experience at Target and the External Events, Partnerships, and Community Leader for TWIST -- Target Women in Science and Technology. She started her IT career at the age of 19 working for IBM and is passionate about mentoring both educators and students on STEM careers. Joana was also a member of Target’s first Engineering Manager Immersion Program (eMIP) cohort and serves on the advisory board for Minnesota State IT Center of Excellence. She loves spending time and traveling with her two girls.

TWIST was founded at Target in 2006 with a focus on engaging and advancing women in STEM careers by fostering connections, inspiration, and knowledge-sharing to help women in STEM grow to their full potential through both internal and external activities and events. This dual focus not only helps advance women in STEM at Target but also strives to give back to the greater community.

Deborah Morris York

Social Impact - Best Buy

Deb Morris York is a Senior Manager in Social Impact at Best Buy. She leads the Foundation Operations team and overseas local and national partnerships related to community involvement for the company and the Best Buy Foundation. In addition, she manages the day‐to‐day relationships for Best Buy's sports sponsorships. Deb has over 15 years’ experience in the philanthropic field. Prior to joining Best Buy, she worked at Travelers in Community Relations in St. Paul, Bank of America in Foundation & Philanthropic Services in Boston as well as KidsFirst Scholarship Fund and the John T. Petters Foundation in Minneapolis. In addition to her experience in the philanthropic field, she was employed with a cross‐cultural consulting agency in Boston, interned at the United Nations in Pretoria, South Africa and worked with women entrepreneurs in rural Kenya and urban South Africa. She is a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar recipient and Generation Next board member.  Deb holds a B.A. in International Relations from the University of Minnesota‐Twin Cities.

Wilson Garland

Executive Director - Minnesota State IT Center for Excellence

Wilson is fortunate to lead the exceptional group of professionals and educators that are part of the Advance IT team. He is committed to building the partnerships and organizational capacity needed to expand the significant impact that this Minnesota State Center of Excellence has on building a robust IT workforce in Minnesota.

He comes to Advance IT after more than a decade in higher education at Capella University where he served as the business and operational leader for the graduate and undergraduate business and IT programs. Most recently, he cofounded and served as the CTO of SkillFitness, a company that develops and sells mobile learning software for skill development and mastery.

Wilson moved here to Minnesota over 20 years ago to work for 3M in marketing and product development. He and his family currently reside in Saint Louis Park and enjoy travel, tennis, skiing, biking, and just about anything that involves the outdoors.