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INTERalliance’s IT Career Camp offered 25 high school students a new awareness of opportunities

By Maridith Yahl
NKyTribune reporter

“Fantastic goodness” was the feedback Althea Kearney of Fidelity Investments gave to the high school students after their Innovation Challenge at the tranquil Fidelity Investments Campus in Covington. Students were there as part of a week-long IT Career Camp, spearheaded by INTERalliance.

Twenty-five high school students interested in IT and technology from Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati are broadening their awareness about IT careers in this region.

Photos by Maridith Yahl

Fidelity Investments was just one of five companies students toured and learned during their camp week. Students also heard from industry professionals on topics like design thinking, branding, and public speaking. All of this to glean valuable information, students will put into their projects.

“We put them into groups during the week, so we try to make sure they’re not with a person from their high school. We want them to grow and expand and we look for people with different skill sets as we’re partnering them together,” shares the very well-spoken and friendly Heather Ackels, Executive Director, INTERalliance.

Every day students worked in groups on a project leading to a final presentation and competition.

“The challenge for this year is for them to create an innovative company, using technology that solves a problem in our society. So we want them to think bigger than themselves, but to take everything that they have learned” this week and incorporate that into their project, explains Ackels.

Ambitious Seton High School senior, Caitlyn Thai says her group’s idea is “health and maintaining people in sports, especially head injuries and [players] getting overheated. We’re trying to figure out a way to manage health recordings and temperature some way using the helmets to monitor.”

Students visited Cintrifuse, Fidelity Investments, CVG, P&G, and Western & Southern where they learned about various IT connected topics and participate in an Innovation Challenge.

Each site visit gave them information they need to decipher its importance and incorporate the concepts into the project. Concepts range from data to logistics to cybersecurity.

Kevin Canafax, Vice President of Government Relations and Public Affairs at Fidelity says, the partnership connected to “INTERalliance is in keeping with us wanting to be very innovative and creative in ways in which we are getting to talent in this area. We saw this as a great vehicle to do that and host this on our campus.”

The students get to be with like-minded individuals their age and get to “know a little bit more about technology than they did when they came. That they have a greater understanding of the technology opportunities that exist in their backyards. So we really try to highlight Cincinnati and Cincinnati companies and opportunities. There’s this misconception, specifically with our high school students, that if they want to be a rock star technologist that they need to go to Silicon Valley to do that.”

Fidelity gave students an introduction about their mission and a tour. With that, they were able to get a sense of where people come to work and the amenities offered. Students also learned about financial literacy and process design thinking. Then, the Innovation Challenge: “How would you redesign Fidelity.com to be more relevant to teens?”

All four teams were very impressive and their talents and skills shined through. In only 30 minutes, students gave remarkable, well-thought-out ideas. It was enjoyable to listen in to each group. All went in different directions but were equally impactful. Ideas included a pop-up dictionary, parallax scrolling, animation, and a Q&A to direct the user’s path.

IT Career Camp was not only about expanding IT knowledge and career options but to keep these future industry leaders local.

“We have a huge talent deficit and it’s just getting bigger. As our companies are putting more of an emphasis on innovation and technology, we can’t grab graduates fast enough to fill those positions. So this ensures that at a much earlier age we have students who are interested in technology, that kind of commit to that technology pathway and it helps them keep them local,” Ackels explains.

Canafax agrees, “If you look at the region as a whole we have this burgeoning growth in tech talent, where people are going to school and they’re getting degrees in tech, IT, and coding but a lot of them are going outside the region for jobs. That’s part of the education, is to make sure that they’re aware that you can have a really satisfying, fulfilling career with a company like Fidelity and stay home.”

Thai has had her eyes opened to new possibilities through INTERalliance and IT Career Camp. This intelligent, young lady is excited about exploring companies locally. Proving the point of this program she says, “It never occurred to me how much tech they can use.”

No doubt this thoughtful student will be an IT industry leader in our region.

“I’m interested in being a software engineer.”

Introduced to coding her freshman year, she loved it. At INTERalliance’s Tech-Olympics she learned about design thinking and her passion grew. About this camp, “So it’s just making me feel more comfortable and more excited about my future and I think I can go very far with software engineering and change the world,” says this impassioned teen.

Partnerships like INTERalliance and Fidelity Investments are solving problems in our region. Working together, introducing next-generation talent to successful businesses in the area, and encouraging that talent can only make our region grow and be stronger.

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