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HBCU students network with area businesses during Classic Week

Amartei Amamoo, a senior at Miles College, speaks with representatives from Encompass Health during the Code the Classic Tech Expo. (Erica Wright, The Birmingham Times)
By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times

A student speaks with a representative from McLeod Software during the Code the Classic Career Tech Expo. (Erica Wright, The Birmingham Times)

The Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA) and TechBirmingham on Friday hosted a Code the Classic Tech Career Expo for more than 100 students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and institutions of higher learning at Innovation Depot in downtown Birmingham.

The expo was held in conjunction with the Magic City Classic football game weekend between Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University (AAMU) and Alabama State University (ASU) at Legion Field.

More than 20 Birmingham companies were at the expo recruiting college students and area tech professionals with three or more years of experience. Businesses in attendance included Altec, Daxko, McLeod Software, Protective Life and Shipt.

Organizers said the expo showcases Birmingham’s willingness to cultivate diverse talent to strengthen the community and also creates space and opportunity for students to network and find potential employers

Brittney Smith, Manager of Workforce Development for the BBA, said her company has partnered with local companies to bring top students from HBCUs and state universities to the Expo.

“Recently we’ve decided to partner with TechBirmingham because the feedback we’re receiving from companies is ‘we need top tech talent,’” Smith said. “In the past, it [the expo] focused on insurance, finance and the other major industries, but this year we wanted to have a more strategic approach to connecting companies to talent.”

Students focused on career opportunities in Birmingham during the first half of the day, networking with possible employers about entry-level and internship opportunities where they were able to participate in informational on-site interviews. The second half of the day was open to college students and also graduates with three to five years of work experience who were able to have one-on-one conversations with companies about potential openings.

Deon Gordon, president of TechBirmingham, said the city is an emerging tech hub and “we need to make sure that we’re doing a good job of making sure our tech talent is paired up and connected to the companies that need them.”

That is especially true in terms of the underrepresented population because in many ways Birmingham’s greatest strengths is “we can actually help some of these companies make a dent in diversity and inclusion,” said Gordon. “We want to make sure that we put our best foot forward in that regard so events like this give us the opportunity to build some meaningful relationships and . . . these employers have relationships with the talent that is coming out of these colleges and universities throughout the state.”

TechBirmingham promotes tech companies in the region, helps to recruit and retain tech talent and entrepreneurs, and provides opportunities for technical training and education.

Students from AAMU and ASU as well as Auburn University, Miles College in Birmingham, Oakwood University in Huntsville, Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), the University of Alabama at Huntsville and the University of West Alabama attended.

Daniel Gonzalez, a senior at UAB, during the Code The Classic Career Tech Expo. (Erica Wright, The Birmingham Times)

Daniel Gonzalez, a senior at UAB majoring in information systems, said all the panelists that spoke couldn’t stress enough the importance of networking.

“It’s not really about what you know but who you know, so it’s really important to interact with these people because you never know when you’ll see them again and when an opportunity will arise in the future,” Gonzalez said, “and if you know somebody in the company, it will give you a leg up over the competition and hopefully an opportunity for me will manifest down the road from attending this event, because that’s what it’s for,” he said.

Amartei Amamoo, a senior at Miles College majoring in computer

Amartei Amamoo, a senior at Miles College, during the Code The Classic Career Tech Expo. (Erica Wright, The Birmingham Times)

and information sciences, said the event was important “because it gives [students] real hands on experience talking with people that want to talk to us about jobs . . . this gives you an opportunity to show your personality and be more personable with these recruiters and business owners and leaders.”