Minnesota High Tech Association, MHTA, Unisys, tech tour, workforceThe prosperity of Minnesota’s future tech workforce begins when our current technology leaders invest in the generation that precedes them. The unfortunate truth is that the efforts and good intentions of our school systems and educators aren’t always enough. Many Minnesota high schools lack the funding or connections necessary to give their students the industry exposure they need. That’s why the Minnesota High Tech Association (MHTA) is dedicated to partnering with companies and individuals to help support the growing student population interested in taking on our state’s industry challenges.

For years, MHTA and its Foundation has raised money to make crucial opportunities like these possible. Through charitable donations and events like the upcoming Bids & Bytes Networking Benefit, the MHTA foundation is proud to provide scholarships and opportunities for high school and college students alike.

One such avenue for opportunity is through the Tech Experience Tour Program, which connects Minnesota high schools with local technology companies who are passionate about informing and inspiring the nextgen workforce. Participating schools are also awarded MHTA foundation scholarships to fund their travel and food expenses during the tour.

On February 15, 2019, Unisys, an MHTA member company, hosted a group of seventeen students from the Apple Valley and Eagan High Schools for a Tech Tour at the company’s flagship data center in Eagan. John Norris and Larry Majkozak of Unisys Data Center Operations, led students on a guided tour of the Eagan Technology Innovation Center. Following that, the high schoolers sat down with Unisys panelists for one-on-one question & answer chats. The panel included three software engineers – Courtney Comeau, Brent Lee, and Ellen Sorenson – as well as Product Manager Adam Gallagher; Senior Director of Product Management Chuck Lefebvre; and Ron Voight, the Engineering Director.

Kris Wilmunen, Digistics Cloud Service Director, organized the event on behalf of Unisys. “This was the third Tech Tour that Unisys hosted in recent years,” Wilmunen said. “The Unisys team had fun sharing IT career experiences along with valuable advice for the students.”

The Q&A discussions were held using a “speed-dating” model where students had six minutes to meet with a Unisys panelist to learn about day-to-day work experiences. They learned that, while programming and coding skills are important, communication skills and problem solving are equally critical to professional success.

The panel also discussed their education backgrounds — and the variety of experiences that can lead to STEM jobs — how they got to Unisys, and the major changes in technology over the years, among other topics.

“The career insights gained by our high school students through the tour and especially the career panel conversations were very impactful,” said Jim Lynch, E3 STEM Program Manager from Apple Valley High School.

Shannon Braun, Math and Computer Science Teacher at Eagan High School agreed, saying, “What an incredible opportunity for our students. They gained practical knowledge on all the different paths they can take to a STEM-related career.  The one-on-one interviews with Unisys employees were very impactful!  We really appreciated their sincerity and willingness to share their individual stories and advice with our students!”

In partnership with companies like Unisys, and through the charitable support of its foundation, MHTA provides these unique events to create a lasting impact for students to learn more about science, technology, engineering, and math careers within the high-tech business world.

“This is a great and easy way to give back to our profession,” Wilmunen agreed. “Unisys will look forward to hosting additional tours next school year.”

If you’re interested in supporting STEM programs and scholarships, consider attending The MHTA Foundation’s Bids & Bytes Networking Benefit at the Aria on September 25. 100% of the night’s proceeds, ticket sales included, will help fund more Tech Tours as well as the MHTA STEM Scholarship program.