“As a partner to Rhode Island-based higher education institutions, Bridge is working to help attract more qualified applicants to these institutions’ computer science programs and create a pipeline to fill one of the most needed career pathways in Rhode Island.”
Joe Devine is a partner at information technology staffing firm Bridge Technical Talent, which recently raised more than $1,000 for the Providence Center School's “Learning Through Technology” project through its sixth e-waste drive.
Devine – who before purchasing Bridge held senior management positions at AT&T, Lucent Technologies, Electro-Films Inc. and Mupac Corp. – talked with Providence Business News about his company’s community involvement and its role in helping bridge the technology skills gap in Rhode Island.
Devine holds a Bachelor of Science in industrial engineering and an MBA from the University of Rhode Island.
PBN: What is the “Learning Through Technology” project, and how will Bridge’s contribution make a difference?
DEVINE: In 2011, Bridge helped launch the Providence Center School’s iPad Learning Program and the Learning Through Technology project. For students in special-education settings, technology needs to be an integral part of learning. At the Providence Center School and Anchor Learning Academy, the state’s first recovery high school, incorporating technology into the curriculum creates a student-centered learning environment that results in increased motivation to learn, greater academic performance and improved behaviors and social-emotional development – skills that ensure future success. Technology is an essential tool for their students. When we learned about the Learning Through Technology project, it was a great opportunity to get involved in a community initiative that spanned both education and technology. Bridge is proud to share the gifts of technology with these students and we hope that others will contribute to this important project.
PBN: What other community service initiatives or partnerships with local nonprofits has Bridge Technical Talent developed?
DEVINE: In addition to the Providence Center School, we also work with “Tails to Teach,” [an East Greenwich-based educational program that brings pet-assisted therapy dogs into the classroom to teach students about positive behavior] and the Providence After School Alliance, [which aims to expand and improve after-school, summer and other expanded learning opportunities for the youth of Providence]. Future e-waste drives will benefit these worthwhile education-based causes as well.
We believe that serving our community means not only dedicating fiscal support but also giving our time in support of worthy causes. We are big believers in community service and are highly involved in charitable giving. In an effort to create a culture of giving at Bridge Technical Talent we:
• match our employees’ giving and have established a charitable contributions program so that all Bridge employees can easily donate to charities of their choosing directly through payroll.
• provide every Bridge employee the opportunity to take one paid day per month to volunteer at a charity of their choice.
PBN: As an IT staffing firm, what has Bridge done to engage with local schools and encourage interest in IT careers among students?
DEVINE: We are well-positioned to see the skills gap of IT professionals needed to help local companies grow and prosper here in Rhode Island. Many companies have IT positions that have been open for months, and in some cases years, due to the lack of qualified IT professionals available for hire. These positions are, on average, some of the best-paying and most rewarding positions available.
The scarcity of IT professionals can be traced back to the low number of graduates from Rhode Island’s higher educational IT programs. These same programs have sufficient capacity but unfortunately are not attracting enough qualified applicants to fill the available seats. As a partner to Rhode Island-based higher education institutions, Bridge is working to help attract more qualified applicants to these institutions’ computer science programs and create a pipeline to fill one of the most needed career pathways in Rhode Island.
We are developing both short-term and long-term strategic approaches. In the short-term we are trying to get the word out, working to entice current Rhode Island high school upperclassmen to apply to existing computer science programs at Rhode Island-based higher education institutions by enlightening students, parents, educators and guidance counselors about the career opportunities in computer science and inspiring students to become enthusiastic about IT careers. Our long term approach is to improve the K-12 curriculum with regard to information technology. We must move beyond the basic “how to use technology” classes to offer “how to create technology” classes that get students excited about careers in computing and prepare young minds for the challenges of more advanced technology study.
PBN: Can you be more specific about the short term actions?
DEVINE: For the last couple of years, we have been speaking to educators, counselors, students and parents about the benefits of computer science careers. We conducted focus groups and surveys of middle- and high-school students to better understand their perceptions and biases about technology careers. Using this information, we are currently producing a video that features IT professionals and employers sharing insight on the real-world rewards of careers in technology and delivering a unified message about IT careers and the need for skilled professionals. We created a PowerPoint, to be used in conjunction with the video, that highlights relevant facts, statistics and profiles of success to be used during presentations made at high school career nights, parent nights and similar events to students, parent and other audiences that influence students’ post-secondary decision-making.
PBN: What plans do you have to expand on these initiatives in the future to promote technology among youth?
DEVINE: We need to get funding to scale our efforts across Rhode Island. Our efforts need to be expanded to have a greater impact. As a state, we need to make sure that we do everything possible to create a computer science career pathway for K-12 Rhode Island students to attend Rhode Island-based higher learning computer science programs so they can eventually help retain current companies in Rhode Island and attract to Rhode Island new companies seeking a talented labor pool.