New York City Mayor unveils plans to invest in tech jobs to improve wage inequality


Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to combat economic inequality in New York and grow the middle class by investing in industries with high wages and job potential.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has released a wide-ranging and comprehensive plan to tackle wage inequality in the city and to grow the middle class, by investing in industries that are heavily focused on technology and have potential for high future earnings.

The ten year plan covers a series of 25 initiatives and aims to create 100,000 jobs over the next decade. There is a strong focus on centering New York as a hub for cyber security activity and to create future technology roles across a broad range of industries.

It will support sectors with physical space to expand, tax incentives to promote growth, business development investments for early-stage companies, and workforce training to connect New Yorkers to good jobs. These strategies will be supported by City actions to spur millions of square feet of new commercial office space (25,000 jobs).

Mayor de Blasio said:

We have to take economic inequality head-on, and that means raising wages and launching more New Yorkers into the middle class. These are the fast-growing, high-paying industries that represent the future of our city, but only if we invest now in the places, the workforce and the infrastructure to compete.

The plan, called New York Works, has got $1.1 billion allocated City spending already and a further $250 million will be added to that amount in the coming months. The administration has said that it will report on its progress annually.

Gregg Bishop, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Small Business Services, said:

Mayor de Blasio is delivering on his promise to build a local economy that works for all New Yorkers. The 100,000 jobs plan outlined today shows what government can do to foster the creation of good, middle class jobs. By investing in key growth industries and initiatives, we are positioning NYC as a leader in job creation and upward mobility for New Yorkers.

Technology plans

As noted above, the 10-year plan is wide ranging and covers a number of industries, including health and manufacturing. However, it is frequently highlighted throughout the report that technology now touches all industries and jobs and should be central to any future job growth and wealth creation in New York City.

The report claims that New York’s tech ecosystem contributes nearly 300,000 jobs already and the average annual salary in the tech sector is $70,000 to $80,000. And most importantly, given the focus on job mobility, 44% of these jobs are accessible through skills training that does not require a college degree.

In those jobs that do not require a college degree, tech jobs pay 45% more in hourly wages than average. NYC has already made it a priority that every public school student in the city will learn computer science by 2025.

The report states:

As advancements in new technologies like machine learning, artifi cial intelligence, and virtual reality continue to progress, New York City will be at the forefront of translating these innovations into goodpaying jobs. The City will expand on this foundation to add 30,000 good-paying jobs in technology across multiple industries over the next ten years. The City’s strategy will make seed investments in new technologies that will create good-paying jobs and improve the competitiveness of New York City industries

Initiative 1 – Commercial cyber security

NYC plans to invest $30 million to grow the city’s cybersecurity ecosystem, with a goal of adding 10,000 new cybersecurity jobs for residents over the next ten years. The plan believes that New York is well placed to be the new global hub for cyber security investment, as it already has a strong position in industries such as finance, tech and healthcare.

The investments will cover:

• A pipeline of homegrown talent by scaling cyber security training programmes
• Shared resources for students and foster industry connections by establishing a cyber security center
• Advance the commercialization of R&D
• Help early stage companies to scale through investment and support

The report states:

Cybersecurity jobs pay good wages, provide a range of access points, and offer good career ladders. Many types of cybersecurity roles exist, including IT analysts, software developers, risk auditors, and compliance analysts that manage security regulations. These jobs pay a median annual starting salary of $65,000 and are accessible to everyday New Yorkers with some training.

Initiative 2 – Smart city tech

New York City is recognising that population growth, climate change and ageing infrastructure present challenges to urban settings – and it hopes that technology can provide new ways to take them on.

The plan aims to source new innovations that will address these urban challenges and invest $7.2 million to create Grand Central Tech in Manhattan and New Lab in Brooklyn. These new hubs will offer 100,000 square feet where companies working on solutions to urban challenges can have the space to grow.

The space will accommodate company expansion and provide resources for prototyping and testing products, as well as technical support. The city expects to create 2,000 good-paying jobs over the ten years.

Early tenants include Honeybee Robotics, which designs products for medical, space, and military applications; Strongarm Technologies, which produces high-tech performance and safety equipment for physical laborers; and Nanotronics Imaging, which produces advanced industrial microscopes.

Initiative 3 – Create a tech hub in Union Square

The plan acknowledges that there is plenty of technology innovation already happening in New York City, but claims that innovators have lacked a central location where they can collaborate and develop solutions.

A $250 million project to create a tech hub in Union Square is underway and will aim to support the creation of 500 good-paying jobs in the industry, as well as provide “high impact training to New Yorkers of many backgrounds”.

The 258,000 square foot space will open in 2020 and provide wired, open and accessible workspaces to a broad range of technology companies looking to grow in New York City.

The report outlines:

The hub will be anchored by Civic Hall, a collaborative new work and event space advancing the use of technology for the public good. Civic Hall’s strong educational partners will provide best-in-class and affordable trainings to help New Yorkers build the digital skills of the future. Partners include the New York City Foundation for Computer Science Education, General Assembly, Per Scholas, FedCap, Code to Work, and Coalition for Queens.

Initiative 4 – Computer science graduates

The report claims that despite employers turning to public institutions for local talent, they currently cannot meet their hiring needs from City University New York (CUNY) graduates. The plan is to double the number of CUNY computer science graduates in the coming years.

It states:

From 2005 to 2015, CUNY’s STEM faculty grew by only 20 percent—even as STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) enrollment grew by 70 percent. This initiative focuses on building capacity for CUNY in three core areas, with the goal of doubling the number of CUNY computer science graduates each year and leading to over 1,000 additional graduates over five years.

The City will work with CUNY colleges and major tech companies in the City to develop a plan to double the number of computer science graduates to 2,000 annually after 5 years, and deliver 2,600 New Yorkers into good paying tech jobs in five years.

The three key elements of the plan are:

• Faculty – bringing industry to the classroom and preparing students directly for the jobs in demand. The City will also with with CUNY to help leverage work/study programmes to fund teaching assistant positions, providing instruction and jobs to students and help for new and existing faculty.
• Real world experience – expanding internship programmes, co-op programmes, and work/study programmes to students can build the real world experience they need to be competitive for jobs.
• Career advising – investing to hire new advisors and equip existing staff with tech industry insights, including tech specific recruitment practices. This will reduce existing student/advisor ratios and better prepare advisors to support students targeting tech-specific jobs.

My take

A thoughtful plan and one that other global cities (including London!) should be considering. It’s comprehensive, detailed, measurable and the money is there. This is going to be an interesting one to watch.

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