Bolstering the number of Indigenous Australians entering the tech industry would improve diversity measures and alleviate the talent shortage at the same time.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people make up close to 0 per cent of the tech industry.
In parallel, it’s estimated that STEM professionals will make up 75 per cent of the Australian workforce by 2025.
The push comes from Indigitek, which aims to increase the participation and success of Indigenous people in the tech community.
The not-for-profit organisation joined forces with course provider General Assembly, which specialises in cultivating diverse tech talent.
The two organisations partnered to build a scholarship program specifically designed to train Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander candidates for tech startup Cash App.
The money transfer application was launched by American businessman and software engineer Bob Lee, who died after being stabbed to death in San Francisco in April this year.
The scholarship program has been designed to create a chance for interested candidates to supercharge their career in software engineering.
It’s made up of a three-month software engineering immersive course, followed by a six-month internship.
The first successful candidate of the initiative who landed full time work with Cash App is NSW man Joshua Towney, who started the journey 18 months ago, and admits he sometimes has to pinch himself to make sure he’s not dreaming.
His wife had been trying to unsuccessfully coax him into coding for a decade because he’s always been interested in video games.
But he didn’t think it was the right fit because he didn’t want to spend four years being a struggling student.
“The silver bullet of it only being a short course won me over in the end,” he said.
He was one of about 15 students in the course. Born and raised in Dubbo, he’s part of Wiradjuri country.
“The initiative was subsidised, so all costs for the course were covered and I was able to take that crucial first step into coding and my first tech job,” Towney said.
Learning that there are only around 200 Indigenous developers Australia-wide drove home the challenge that exists of getting more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders into the industry, he said.
“You’re required to do around 20 hours of pre-work to self-teach some of the fundamentals in order to hit the ground running once the course begins.
“I knew halfway through the pre-work that I was going to love developing.”
Each day started with a coding warm-up followed by lessons, and homework most nights.
At the end of the course, he began the six-month internship with Cash App where he was immersed in the team and learned on the job.
“I must have done something right in that period as I was offered full-time employment at the end of it,” he said.
Towney admitted that taking the plunge into this career was his toughest endeavour to date but said he wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.
He works on developing the support side of the business which covers areas such as help articles, chat, and phone.
Having come from a 20-year retail and call centre career, he’s been able to provide valuable insight into the behaviours and idiosyncrasies of the everyday customer.
“The majority of the role is problem solving, which makes no two work days ever feel the same,” he said.
“Everyone here has been through the struggle of being a fledgling developer, so managers and colleagues alike are all more than happy to pass on their knowledge to help you succeed.”