Rep. Ro Khanna Headlines Launch Of Google/DMACC Partnership

US Rep. Ro Khanna, D.California, peaks with Joel Lundstrom, the leader of a Des Moines Area Community College program with ties to Google that is designed to bring high tech careers to Iowa. Photo by Douglas Burns

By Guest Post

April 14, 2023

Nearly 200 students, including many in rural and underserved communities, are on a fast path toward high-tech careers in a Google-backed program with a base in Des Moines — and ties to Silicon Valley and cutting-edge companies around the globe — that Congressman Ro Khanna shepherded from concept to classroom reality.

Khanna, a Democrat who represents Silicon Valley in California, one of the nation’s more muscular economic regions, sees bringing tech careers to a broader sweep of the nation as essential to building a modern economy — and stitching together an often culturally-divided nation.

Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) officially launched TalentSprint’s Techwise Partnership at its urban campus in north downtown Des Moines Thursday. Google is a financial force behind the 18-months of training designed to enable students to become entry-level software engineers upon completion.

Twelve DMACC students are slated to finish in September with another 32 already in the second wave of the program that includes eight colleges nationally and 120 students — with DMACC as a key hub. And the project is growing. Fast.

“I think this is the most innovative and generous initiative to boost access to high-tech careers in rural and underserved areas,” said Joel Lundstrom, provost of the DMACC Carroll campus and lead on the Google TalentSprint partnership. “I haven’t worked with anyone who has been more creative and persistently effective in the realization of such an unprecedented partnership than Congressman Khanna.”

Students receive a Google engineer as a mentor as part of the project, and it involves 10 to 12 hours of education a week.

“The goal of the partnership is 100 percent career placement with some students hoping for a Google internship,” Lundstrom said.

Des Moines Area Community College President Robert Denson said the $5,000 Google-TalentSprint stipends are essential to give students the flexibility to be involved.

“We’re always open to finding new and exciting ways to improve and meet the needs of our employers,” Denson said. “This partnership has generated a very unique way to ladder additional training and support.”

Khanna said DMACC is one of the more innovative community colleges in the nation under Denson.

“I have traveled quite extensively now around the country and there is no president of a community college who is more willing to look to the future, more willing to be flexible with bringing in private industry, more willing to make partnerships with companies and people around the world, a truly global vision,” Khanna said.

Khanna said DMACC is the “hub” anchoring the national initiative for TechWise.

“What TechWise and Google and this partnership is really about is bringing this country together and saying that for us to succeed, for America to remain the manufacturing superpower, for America to remain the technology leader, ahead of any other country, we can’t write a single community off,” Khanna said.

Shiv Venkataraman, a vice president with Google, and a software engineer with the tech Goliath for two decades, said the company’s goal is to organize the world’s information. That means all communities must be involved, he said.

“As a software engineer one of the things that we wanted to do was to create more software engineers and do it in local communities,” Venkataraman said.

Santanu Paul, the CEO of TalentSprint, said all companies in the modern world are in some form tech companies.

“It’s amazing to see how DMACC is being a bigger part of the whole story,” Paul said.

One student in the program, Luis Reverol of Windsor Heights, said the DMACC effort is a life lift. He is currently learning how to do computer coding. He hopes to leave the program with the skills to make at least $65,000 annually.

“It’s inspirational,” he said. “Very inspirational.”

By Douglas Burns
Special To Iowa Starting Line

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