Rung for Women, Maryville University, and Greater St. Louis, Inc. are launching a training program this month designed to increase the chances women, especially women of color, can snag high-paying geospatial jobs.
The initiative comes as the region prepares for a range of job options associated with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Western U.S. headquarters that is taking shape in north St. Louis.
In partnership with several geospatial employers including St. Louis-based mapping service T-Kartor USA, Rung for Women and Maryville have developed a geospatial analyst training program designed to offer specific knowledge and skills employers are seeking in entry-level geospatial employees.
The program is only open to members of Rung, which provides educational, professional, and economic resources to help women advance. The first group of up to 8 participants will complete the program in December 2021 and will begin interviews with employers in early 2022.
“At Rung, we are building equitable pathways to high potential careers for women in our region,” Leslie Gill, president of Rung for Women, said in a statement to The St. Louis American. “We know that career opportunities in geospatial will continue to grow over the next 5 to 10 years, and we want to empower women to gain access to these good jobs with family-sustaining wages.
“Women have been underrepresented in STEM for too long, and we are proud to work with partners like Maryville to change that.”
Rung will recruit women and offer additional, complementary services -- including free childcare, prepared meals, counseling, coaching, and financial education -- to eliminate many of the common barriers that keep women from reaching credential completion.
Employer partners including Maxar Technologies, a space technology company based in Westminster, Colorado, and L3Harris Technologies, a defense contractor and information technology services provider, will interview women who complete the program for open positions.
The geospatial industry already supports more than 27,000 jobs in the St. Louis region, according to Rung, not counting more than 3,000 jobs expected when the Next NGA West headquarters opens in north St. Louis in 2025.
Many geospatial contractors are moving businesses -- and jobs -- to the region to be closer to the new headquarters.
Entry-level geospatial analyst jobs start at $37,000 with significant opportunity for growth and upward mobility, Rung estimates.
The organization quoted figures from the National Science Foundation showing women represent nearly half of the overall U.S. workforce, yet make up 35% of the technology workforce. When looking at all women in computer and information science occupations, 56% are white, 32% are Asian, 7% are Black women and 5% are Latinx, according to Rung. About 70% of Rung members are women of color.
Gill noted that industries that are traditionally male-dominated industries have earned a higher wage than those that are female-dominated, for generations, leading to wage gaps between men and women and between Blacks and whites.
“By creating intentional pathways for women to enter into these good-paying jobs, along with the wrap-around support they need to succeed, our region is making a bold commitment to inclusive growth and opportunity for all,” she said in a statement.
The all-virtual program will be made up of 12 modules. A new module will be released every 10 days, giving students the time to study and master each level before moving forward. Students are given up to 16 weeks to complete.
Maryville University took feedback from employers to develop the curriculum, which is designed to be flexible enough to accommodate adults with families and full-time jobs.
“Through MaryvilleWORKS, we have created a platform for training ...that [serves] the needs of our region’s fastest-growing sectors while providing accessible and convenient learning opportunities for underserved students,” Dr. Mark Lombardi, president of Maryville University, said in a statement.
Membership in Rung is free. Members must be at least 21 years old, have a personal annual income of no more than $50,000, English proficiency, a high school diploma or the equivalent and an employment history and stable housing for at least 6 months.
More information on Rung can be found at rungforwomen.org.
Karen Robinson-Jacobs is The St. Louis American / Type Investigations business reporter and a Report for America corps member.