How can we grow San Diego’s tech talent pipeline?

Tech Council 2

As San Diego’s tech scene continues to gain clout, building the infrastructure to sustain a diverse, local talent pipeline becomes increasingly important and urgent. On November 2, two dozen tech industry leaders representing 22 businesses and organizations gathered for the first meeting of the Regional Council on Technology at the SDG&E Innovation Center to plan how to do just that.

Employment Trends in San Diego Tech Jobs

There has been double digit growth—12 percent on average—in technology jobs in San Diego County up to 2018. Projected growth for the next five years is 7 percent annually. The region’s pipeline of graduates across 32 programs produced 2,887 completions in 2017. Compare that with the number of openings at 3,567 and we clearly have a supply problem.

As noted by the council, the magnitude of this deficit is even bigger since data isn’t available on the “hidden market” of tech jobs where companies privately recruit talent for unposted opportunities. Another insight that came up is that traditional 4-year degrees are not going to sustain the pipeline. We need to explore alternative forms of training and on-the-job experience to bridge the gap.

Skills wanted by San Diego Tech Businesses

Research by the San Diego Workforce Partnership found that the skills tech employers find most important are:

  1. Problem solving and critical thinking (90%)
  2. Technical skills (81%)
  3. Social and verbal communication (67%)
  4. Industry-specific knowledge (62%)
  5. Educational degrees and certifications (46%)

Tech Council 1

“People who solve problems are in demand. People who create them are not”—advice Harold Gottschalk of SoftStack Factory gives his students, echoing the importance of building essential skills like those that appear in #1 and #3 spots on the list above.

Matthew Strebe of Connetic confirmed the list from his perspective, noting that “basic show up to work skills” are often missing in candidates and current employees.

TechHire San Diego, run by the San Diego Workforce Partnership, addresses this by giving job candidates access to a career coach available by phone or in person to work on these skills before meeting a potential employer.

Another potential upskilling solution is LinkedIn Learning, which offers an exceptionally robust suite of online courses to reinforce classroom learning or on-the-job training. The Workforce Partnership conducted a small pilot with the service in 2018 and is planning more pointed, industry-specific applications in 2019.

Reasons Hiring is Difficult for San Diego Technology Companies

The top three reason for hiring difficulty were reported as:

  • Lack of industry-specific knowledge
  • Small applicant pool
  • Insufficient certifications

One tool the council will explore is an IT Certification Roadmap designed to show clear pathways from training to a new or advanced career. Recognizing it’s impossible for someone like a career counselor or student to know all of this, the goal to build something to help an individual, a company, and educators who may have never been in a certain sector navigate.

Regional Council Next Steps

As the regional council—which represents both San Diego and Imperial County—moves forward over the next 12 months, it will continue to consult data and expert insight to propose and test potential solutions to some of the tech industry’s biggest skills gaps and hiring difficulties before the end of 2019.