In January, Dr. Christopher Warren took on the role of the company’s first director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Corporate Partnerships. He is responsible for developing talent pipelines to recruit diverse candidates of color, sexual orientation, and ability, including degreed and non-degreed talent.
By J.A. Jones, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG – Jabil, located in St. Petersburg, is one of the largest employers in the region. An industry leader in manufacturing, supply chain, and product management, the company recently cemented its ongoing commitment to diversity and equity, hiring one of St. Pete’s community leaders to a new position.
In January, Dr. Christopher Warren took on the role of the company’s first director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Corporate Partnerships. While the position is new, Warren traced Jabil’s employment numbers among the Black community back to its beginnings.
“When Jabil built a headquarters here in 1982, they were doing high volume manual assembly, and that meant hundreds of manufacturing jobs for local residents. Many of those early assemblers were African American,” shared Warren.
However, at that time, a job at Jabil meant manufacturing parts for circuits which only required a high school education. Those jobs, however, provided a solid living wage and health and retirement benefits. It was a job that enabled many folks in the Black community to gain economic stability without secondary education.
As time passed, employment in the Black community has decreased. Today, Jabil is one of the most technologically advanced manufacturing companies globally.
“A key part of my strategic plan locally is to reengage our community and make them aware of the great jobs we still have in manufacturing that pay a living wage, with paths towards upward mobility.”
Warren’s position puts him in charge of national and international DEI-related directives (Jabil has over 200K employees working on 100+ sites on five continents). Warren is responsible for developing talent pipelines to recruit diverse candidates of color, sexual orientation, and ability, including degreed and non-degreed talent.
His job also entails establishing and managing community partnerships that advance Jabil’s commitment to improving humanity through service and education and working across departments to create accountability systems and a culture of inclusion within the company.
Warren came to Jabil’s attention through his engagement with the company serving as the regional director of advancement for IDEA Public Schools Tampa Bay. Around this time last year, he was charting a path for the location and funding for new school campuses. After opening two campuses in East Tampa and locking in the resources for a third in Lakeland, he finally had the opportunity to focus on his hometown of St. Pete.
“I wanted to do something really special to have both an immediate and longitudinal impact not just on educational outcomes, but skills development, social mobility, and generational poverty. I decided that the tech sector offered the greatest opportunities and was really an underutilized market.”
Warren knew that with Jabil, Tech Data, and Honeywell all having facilities here, there were tremendous opportunities for young people to gain training and education in an area with exponential growth potential.
He decided on Jabil after researching their philanthropy and community investment. While viewing their website’s media page, he noticed a familiar face – one he remembered from his years at Lakewood High School.
Scholar and star football player Elliad Granger had inspired Warren while they were in high school. Granger was in the Center for Advanced Technologies (CAT) “CATCOM” news media program, the best in the state. Warren remembers Granger as one of the few African-American students in the CAT program and a standout even among that elite group of students.
“I watched this guy dominate the classroom and the football field, and I was inspired,” Warren recalled. After Granger graduated, Warren worked his way onto the sports anchor desk and also played for the football team, following in Granger’s footsteps.
So, of course, when Warren saw Granger on Jabil’s website while researching for the IDEA schools, he reached out. They connected, discussing their frustrations with the state of schools in the south side neighborhoods they grew up in and the lack of opportunities for Black students to engage in the kinds of development programs they had in the 90s.
Ultimately, Granger and Warren developed program ideas and short and long-term solutions that would close the digital divide, enhance STEM education engagement for socio-economically disadvantaged youth, and provide opportunities for gainful employment.
Their work together brought Warren to the attention of Jabil leadership; his vision and passion aligned with Jabil’s commitment to creating pipelines for diverse talent and increasing STEM development opportunities for young people worldwide. The clear fit led to the organization offering him the position he now holds.
Jabil’s CEO, Mark Mondello, has charged his employees with a pledge to serve 1 million hours of community service worldwide as a company, and Warren’s first day on the job was a 12-hour Serve-a-thon volunteer day cleaning up Gandy beach, laying sod for a Habitat for Humanity home, reading to the scholars at Campbell Park Elementary, and filling food boxes for Feeding Tampa Bay.
“This is the kind of thing that fuels my passion, and it feels great to work on a team that matches that energy all the way up to the executive level,” Warren shared.
This summer, Warren is launching the Pathways to Tech diversity internship program to start working on the pipeline development for North American talent. The program will offer college juniors, seniors, and recent graduates real-time work experiences in multiple job areas throughout the company. The internship includes a $20 per hour wage during the 12-week program and the potential of permanent placement at the end of the summer.
Two internship spots will also be offered to high school graduates.
“There is a huge population of potentially skilled workers here in Tampa Bay that can fill our manufacturing roles who may not have a degree,” Warren acknowledged. “We would like for them to have the experience of making a good living and providing for their families without having to go to college,”
Warren said he believes that over the next three to five years, Jabil will demonstrate how to create and maintain diverse, equitable, and inclusive tech workplaces, as well as community and corporate partnerships that unite and move communities forward.