Silicon Valley leaders are joining Pillar Technology’s initiative to help provide intensive training for students in Jefferson, Iowa, a town of 4,200. Participants could land tech jobs paying $65,000.
Microsoft’s Kevin Scott understands the limits teenagers face growing up in a place where cows outnumber people and opportunities for tech careers are limited.
Many of the textile, tobacco and furniture jobs in rural Virginia were disappearing by the time Scott was growing up in the 1970s.
Already passionate about computers and programming, he was one of two local kids picked to attend a science and technology high school.
“I faced a hard choice. I wanted to stay in Virginia. I wanted to stay there with my friends and family. But if I wanted to pursue a career in technology, I had to leave,” Scott said Saturday.
The Microsoft chief technology officer and nearly a dozen Silicon Valley executives want to change that.
They’re joining a business and small-town partnership to bring high-paying, high-tech jobs to rural Iowa. If successful, leaders want to replicate the initiative in other rural towns and states, creating opportunities in regions being emptied of jobs and people.
Scott, LinkedIn co-founder Allen Blue, venture capitalist Greg Sands, Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse and others spent Saturday in rural Iowa learning about Pillar Technology’s initiative to provide intensive training for students who could then land high-paying tech jobs at the company’s office in Jefferson, a town of 4,200.
“I believe this work can give young people in rural parts of the country and in Iowa an opportunity to stay … and build lives and an economic foundation for themselves and their community,” Scott said.
Tapping new employment sources is important to the tech industry, struggling with intense competition for high-priced talent and space on the East and West coasts.
“Real estate is very expensive and unemployment is very low. The competition for tech workers … is quite fierce,” said Sands, founder of Costanoa Ventures, a San Francisco early-stage venture capital fund.
Startup founders and CEOs have found “an opportunity and want to grow but simply can’t find the people to do the job — at nearly any price,” said Sands, a Minneapolis native.