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Seattle Office of Economic Development and Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle Expand Youth Web Design Program supporting Black Owned Small Businesses and BIPOC Students

Check out the Youth Web Design Program Re-cap video here!

Yesterday, Mayor Jenny Durkan, Council President Gonzalez, and Councilmember Morales joined the Seattle Office of Economic Development (OED) and the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle (ULMS) to celebrate the success of the Youth Web Design Pilot Program and announce its expansion for 2021. OED and ULMS held a virtual program  to recognize the first cohort of students and small business participants. The Youth Web Design program was created in partnership with ULMS as a COVID-19 response, providing an opportunity for BIPOC students to learn web design and create websites for Black-owned small businesses that were without or had limited web presence prior to the pandemic.   

The pandemic instantly reduced or eliminated funding for paid career opportunities and internships for students, while Governor Inslee’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy order and subsequent phased re-opening guidelines required small businesses to change their operation models to stop the spread of the virus—greatly impacting the businesses revenue, customer base, or ability to function at all. In response to these economic and social challenges, OED and ULMS developed this pilot program to educate, train and employ young people, and support Black-owned businesses’ ability to stay open and operate in our new virtual reality.  

“The past year has brough unprecedented challenges to everyone in our City – but it has been even more challenging for our black and African American youth and small business owners, who have been disproportionately impacted by the economic downturn during COVID-19. The Youth Web Design program teaches Seattle’s BIPOC youth new skills while simultaneously providing assistance to black-owned businesses who need it most,” Said Mayor Jenny Durkan. “As Seattle begins to recover from COVID-19, the effort needs to be equitable and thoughtful. By supporting the future careers of Black youth and uplifting Black-owned small businesses in our community, OED and ULMS have done more than just provide a short-term fix – they are building the groundwork for a more just, equitable, and economically vibrant future for our city.”  

“The Youth Web Design Program directly responds to the needs of our young people and Black-owned, small businesses. I will continue to ensure the City of Seattle invests in programs that help people survive and navigate these current crises. We must continue to work and innovate together to equip people and small businesses to come out stronger on the other side of this pandemic. Thank you to the OED staff and our partners at the Urban League for their hard work and important collaboration on this program.” said Council President Lorena Gonzalez (Position 9/Citywide)  

“This program is a win-win for both Black-owned businesses pivoting to online sales and marketing due to the pandemic and BIPOC youth, allowing them to gain skills in the underrepresented creative industry economy. Thanks to the Office of Economic Development for continuing to center equity and economic justice in our city’s COVID recovery efforts. As we re-open and rebuild our economy, we must continue to look for opportunities to support Black small business owners as they pivot their business models to meet the needs of our changed economy, and train young people in the careers of the future, especially those from BIPOC communities,” said Councilmember Tammy J. Morales (District 2, South Seattle and the C/ID). 

ULMS recruited 16 BIPOC high school students and designed a 6-week curriculum that provided web design training, industry accredited website design certification, opportunities to consult with Black-owned small business owners, and a paid stipend for their work. OED identified 16 Black-owned small businesses that were interested and in need of website support, to pivot their operations to function and remain competitive. In 2021, OED and Urban League will host two new cohorts that will serve 30 additional BIPOC students and up to 60 interested Black-owned businesses. Students will also have the opportunity to earn Career and Technical Education (CTE) credits toward their graduation requirements in addition to learning web design and marketing, earning a industry accredited website design certification, and receiving a paid stipend. 

Black-owned businesses who participated in the Youth Web Design pilot are:  

·        Drae’s Lake Route (9261 57th Ave S; Rainier Beach) 

·        King Philly Cheesesteaks (7820 Rainier Ave S; Rainier Beach) 

·        Agelgil Ethiopian Restaurant (2800 East Cherry St; Central District) 

·        Seattle Chicken Express (3621 33rd Ave S; Rainier Valley) 

·        Enat Ethiopian Restaurant (11546 15th Ave NE; Northgate) 

·        Yusra & Sabah Restaurant (7729 Rainier Ave S; Rainier Beach) 

·        Mama Sambusa Kitchen (8300 Wabash Ave S, Rainier Beach) 

·        Soulful Dishes (1800 E Yesler Way; Central District) 

·        Safari Njema Restaurant (5041 Rainier Ave S; Columbia City)   

·        Seattle Best BBQ (Food Truck)  

·        Chef Café Ethiopian Restaurant (2200 S Jackson St; Central District) 

·        Tres’ House of Cheesesteaks (Food Truck) 

·        Queen Sheba Ethiopian (916 E John St; Capitol Hill) 

·        The New You (1410 18th Ave; Capitol Hill) 

·        Fulfilled Needs (3100 S Alaska St; Columbia City)   

·        NS With Beauty (5038 Wilson Ave S, Seward Park) 

“As we work together to re-open Seattle’s economy, we must do so in an equitable manner that creates a better future for our communities of color—especially Black and African Americans whose businesses are facing crises exasperated by COVID, and who are under-represented in industries that have high earning jobs.” said Pamela Banks, Interim Director of OED who is focused on Seattle’s recovery efforts. “This is why OED and ULMS created a new model for work -based learning that includes training for skills needed for in demand jobs with high wage earning potential, social capital building, and paid work experience for our students, and connection to the tech resources our Black-owned small businesses need to survive this crises and thrive in the future.”  

“We need to be intentional about providing a space where students can gain industry-level skills and prepare to enter jobs that will lead to a successful future” said Michelle Merriweather, CEO of the ULMS. “The Youth Web Design program provides our students with an early opportunity to learn lucrative, transferable web skills, all while supporting local business owners who are navigating this pandemic, doing their best  to remain open in our communities.”  

The pandemic has exposed growing economic disparities for young people and small businesses, especially for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities. Young people were over-represented in Unemployment Insurance claims early in the pandemic, likely due to the nature of the occupations with high layoff rates. Additionally, in King County, Black/African American claimants have 2.9% higher representation in the new claimant pool than in the labor force. While Seattle is home to some of the largest and most influential tech companies, career connected learning experiences and pipelines to these industries for BIPOC students have been limited. Data demonstrates that Black/African Americans are under-represented in the tech industry that overwhelmingly offers opportunities to the high-earning jobs of today and the future. For example:  

o   In the US Labor Force in 2020, Black employees made up only 6% of software and web developers. (Source: US Bureau of Labor and Statistics

o   In 2018, Equal Employment Opportunity reports filed by Google, Facebook and Twitter showed that out of a combined workforce of 41,000 employees, only 758, or 1.8%, were Black. 

o   In 2019, the national median pay for web developers (often requiring an Associate’s Degree) was $73,760 and software developers’ median pay was $107,510 (often requiring a Bachelor’s Degree). Overall, the median annual wage for computer and information technology jobs was $88,240. (Source: US BLS

“Overall my experience was incredible. I enjoyed having the chance to use my creativity in a new way. This has helped me answer the question, of whether or not I want to pursue Computer Science. And I do!” Said Brianna, a student in the program.  

“Heading into my junior year of high school, it seemed appropriate to explore what I truly wanted to do in life.” said Keymani, a student in the program. “This program gave me the opportunity to take part in a new spectrum, that is growing in today’s society, and with these new skills, it will not only benefit myself for the future but also allow me to share my knowledge and help others interested in web design.” 

Another student, Lucy, states “This program was very beneficial towards my future plans. Personally, I’m not set on what I want to pursue in the future yet, but the skills I learned through the web design program can be used in so many ways. With the world growing in technology, having the ability to make a website can benefit all my future endeavors.” 

At the same time, having an online presence and e-commerce capabilities has been a lifeline to small businesses. Those without these resources disproportionately suffer in comparison to businesses with strong technology resources. In a report on COVID-19’s effect on minority-owned small businesses, McKinsey & Company stresses the importance of programs that increase access to technology by helping small businesses “get online, develop apps, and launch pick-up and delivery services.”3 Not only do these programs address immediate needs to adjust business models, but they also build resilience and competitiveness among small businesses. 

“We are a Black, Muslim woman-owned business located in South Seattle, and we specialize in Somali street food. I think this program is amazing and the timing is truly a blessing as we were in need of a website, especially during this pandemic.” said Honey Mohammed, owner of Mama Sambusa. “I actually have a 14-year old brother who attends Garfield High School, and this is exactly the kind of technology-focused program he loves to participate in. I hope that this program continues next year so that my little brother and more of his peers can be part of it.” 

OED and ULMS will host the next cohorts of this program in the Summer and Fall of 2021. Black-owned businesses interested in this resource must be Seattle-based, have an up-to-date Seattle Business License Number, and can sign up for more information through the online portal, in advance of applications opening in March 2021. The ULMS will choose student participants from their existing connections with youth serving organizations and programs throughout the City.  

In addition to the Youth Web design program, OED serves small businesses, workers, and young people in Seattle through programs such as the Small Business Stabilization FundDigital BridgeLease Amendment ToolkitCareer Connected Learning Grants, and technical assistance for City, State and Federal resources. For more information on the Youth Web Design program as well as other investments and programs OED has that serve small businesses, and support strategies for workforce development and creative industries—visit our website, email, or call 206-684-8090.