New tech mentorship program for Black Canadian youth accepting applications

A new tech mentorship program designed for Canadian Black high school students is now accepting applications.

Rising Star, as the program is called, will be run by Athlete Tech Group, a sport and tech events and media company; and BlackMINT, a Canadian non-profit organization focused on getting more Black youth involved in the tech sector. RBC Future Launch, a 10-year, $500 million initiative aimed to help Canadian youth prepare for their careers, is also supporting Rising Star.

“Rising Star will help to open doors and create a sustainable bridge between Black Canadians and ‘Silicon Valley of the North.’”

The nine-month virtual program aims to give students skills to help them prepare for careers in the tech sector. Rising Star will mentor a total of twenty-five students from across Canada, offering them access to a $20,000 scholarship fund that can be applied to a Canadian post-secondary institution. Selected students will also have direct access to a network of industry mentors, including former National Basketball Association (NBA) star and business leader Al Harrington and Women’s NBA player and entrepreneur, Angel McCoughtry.

Many studies have indicated that Black workers and entrepreneurs face unique and systemic barriers to success in Canada’s tech sector. In addition to being vastly underrepresented at tech companies, Black workers have also been disproportionately impacted by layoffs resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Black entrepreneurs also face other significant challenges that have also been exacerbated by the pandemic. One report from 2020 found that 85 percent of underrepresented entrepreneurs in Canada, which includes Black entrepreneurs, experienced a loss in revenue, contracts, and cash flow since the onset of the pandemic.

RELATED: Applications open for Canada’s Black Entrepreneurship Loan Fund

A number of groups have sought to change the narrative around representation in the sector, by launching programs to promote, support, and engage Black workers. Among these initiatives are the Black Professionals in Tech Network, the federal government’s Black Entrepreneurship Program, and the Black Innovation Fund.

Rising Star is among these programs, and is looking to engage tech workers at the earliest stages of their careers.

“We need to get more Black youth engaged and excited about Canada’s bustling technology sector,” said Randy Osei, founder and CEO of Athlete Tech Group. “Black Canadians continue to be grossly underrepresented in the tech industry. Rising Star will help to open doors and create a sustainable bridge between Black Canadians and ‘Silicon Valley of the North’ as we look to break barriers to employment and drive social participation.”

In August, Athlete Tech Group pivoted from an annual summit for the sport and tech sectors to an event and media company for athletes and entrepreneurs.

Athlete Tech Group’s summit brought together professional athletes, business leaders, venture capitalists, and influencers to Toronto to connect with the city’s startup community. Following its pivot, the company now focuses on bringing global athletes to Canada’s tech ecosystem for business opportunities.

Applications for Rising Star are open until July 5. The program will begin July 14.

Image source Unsplash. Photo by Lagos Techie.

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle is a Vancouver-based writer with 5+ years of experience in communications and journalism and a lifelong passion for telling stories. For over two years, she has reported on all sides of the Canadian startup ecosystem, from landmark venture deals to public policy, telling the stories of the founders putting Canadian tech on the map.