City to Prioritize Tech Education, Future Jobs

By Catherine Yang, Epoch Times
April 2, 2014 Updated: April 3, 2014

NEW YORK—Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen may still use a flip phone, but she is more than enthusiastic about expanding the city’s tech ecosystem, a newly coined term.

“There isn’t a corner of this city the [tech] industry doesn’t touch,” said Glen, former Goldman Sachs executive and the city’s new deputy mayor for housing and economic development.

Referring to NYC’s tech sector as Silicon Alley does the ecosystem no justice, Glen said, adding that it is not just a sector anymore.

“There isn’t a corner of this city the [tech] industry doesn’t touch,” said Glen, former Goldman Sachs executive and the city’s new deputy mayor for housing and economic development.

Referring to NYC’s tech sector as Silicon Alley does the ecosystem no justice, Glen said, adding that it is not just a sector anymore. 

A report  released Wednesday looks at tech jobs outside of the tech industry for the first time. It finds that nearly half the jobs do not require a bachelor’s degree, and workers earn hourly wages 45 percent higher than the average in the city.

The tech ecosystem comprises tech jobs in the tech industry, non-tech jobs in the tech industry, and tech jobs in non-tech industries. 

According to the report, these jobs account for 12.6 percent of the city’s workforce.

According to the Kate Wittels, author of the report, for every one programmer the city attracts, more than one non-tech job is created. 

“It’s a multiplier effect,” said Wittels, a director at HR&A Advisors Inc., who developed real estate strategies in downtown Brooklyn on behalf of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership’s Brooklyn Tech Triangle Initiative.

Focus on Jobs

Speaking in Midtown Wednesday at an event hosted by Associated for a Better New York, Glen announced the appointment of Katy Gaul-Stigge as the head of the Mayor’s Office for Workforce Development, previously called the Office of Human Capital Development.

The workforce development programs the city currently has are moving at an “analog speed in a digital age,” Glen said.

To better foster an environment where tech industries want to come and grow in New York City, the administration will focus workforce development goals on tech companies’ specific needs. Glen wants people running tech companies to sit down with and let the office know exactly specific skills they need in new hires.

“That’s going to be a real-time supply and demand conversation,” Glen said. “We spend half a billion dollars a year training people, so we should be training people to do what the demand side needs.”

A barrier to that in the past has been the education system, Glen said. Some jobs require more training than others, and many people in the tech industry say the education should start early on. 

“What we really want to do is engage with all of you who are in that sector to be quite concrete about what you need and figure out where along the chain—4 years old to 30 years old—where we can have those interventions,” Glen said. 

Tech Education

Mayor Bill de Blasio made an appearance at the event to discuss the importance of early education in creating a tech-savvy workforce.

“We need to create an educational system to serve all of our children and prepare them for the 21st century economy,” de Blasio said, tying in the importance of his hallmark effort to provide universal prekindergarten in the city. “They will build the future economy of this city.”

Dawn Barber, co-founder of the nonprofit NY Tech Meetup, said code should be taught in second or third grade, across the board. 

“How are we preparing for jobs for the future? Kids have to understand technology,” Barber said. 

NY Tech Meetup, founded in 2004, has been integral to creating a solid tech hub in the city. The previous administration was a huge supporter of the tech industry, and it seems the current mayor is on board as well. The report highlights the tech ecosystem spreading out to create better jobs for working families and the middle class, which aligns nicely with de Blasio’s progressive agenda.

According to Wittels, the tech ecosystem jobs are stable whether they require a four-year  degree or not, and in a tech company the developers are just as dependent on the customer service representatives as the other way around.

“Mike [Bloomberg] opened the conversation—he understood tech, his background was in tech,” Barber said. “We hope de Blasio continues that dialogue.”

NYC Competition

Last year, tech industry job growth in New York City surpassed that of both Silicon Valley and San Francisco. “New York is on par with Silicon Valley,” Wittels said.

New York has more competition than ever, said Mukul Krishna, digital medial senior global director for analysis firm Frost & Sullivan.

It’s not just college cities like Boston in New England that are attracting tech workers. Tech hubs are thriving in the Midwest and cities like Baton Rouge, La. and Indianapolis are taking advantage of a lower cost of living to compete with cities on the East and West coasts.

New York City’s biggest challenge is, to no surprise, the high cost of living and attracting larger companies to invest heavily.

Glen wants employers to look at the New York workforce before looking to Stanford or overseas, and Krishna says that’ll be a challenge. “No company in their right mind is going to localize their job search when talent is the most critical thing they can have,” Krishna said.

Major tech brands like Google and Twitter have been taking up major real estate in New York City, but tech companies are often just in New York to have a presence.

To an extent, companies are setting up sales and development offices but not doing major research and development in New York, said Krishna.

“New York has got infrastructure, it’s got planning, everything,” Krishna said. What it needs to watch closely are the other metrics of what he calls “the intangibles”—like the commute experience, and the happiness index.

“That’s the deal breaker.”