Program pairs local, newly-trained tech pros with Detroit small business owners

Source: School of Information

Julie Hui

A collaboration between Jefferson East Inc.  and University of Michigan will bring new tech training opportunities to Detroiters and technology support for small business owners in the East Jefferson section of Detroit.

Crain’s Detroit Business reports that the new program was funded by a $300,000 grant awarded to U-M School of Information (UMSI) from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. During the next year, a portion of the grant will be used to support JEI’s small business efforts, including the training of tech pros who will work with small businesses in East Jefferson.

The tech pros will provide free, one-on-one support to entrepreneurs in their community. Tech pros will work between 30 and 40 hours a week with small businesses. UMSI and JEI are aiming to enroll 140 businesses.

During the next year, the team will note what approaches work and what needs fine tuning. Ultimately, they plan to grow the program to more Detroit neighborhoods.

“We’re hoping this is a sustainable model,” says Julie Hui, assistant professor at UMSI, who is co-leading the project with associate professor Tawanna Dillahunt. “We’re trying to build on a ‘train the trainer’ idea where the initial tech workers can train future tech workers.”

Hui says trained tech pros could use their experience as a springboard for future work in the tech industry.

“We’d like to see them transfer into a career in IT or start their own technology consulting business,” she says. “This isn’t just about helping business owners. It’s about getting more people engaged in the tech field.”

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