Residents who predate the current tech boom could benefit from having access to jobs in what has become San Francisco’s most exciting and talked-about business sector, under a plan by Mayor Ed Lee.
The effort to ensure tech companies hire those who were living in San Francisco before recent industry growth is at the very heart of preserving what’s left of The City’s diverse culture. As economic pressures mount in the form of skyrocketing rents and other cost-of-living expenses, local-hire advocates are working to counter the adverse effects of the thriving tech sector, known only too well to those who experienced the dot-com boom and bust of the late 1990s.
“There will be a lot of people locally hired,” Lee said during a recent editorial board meeting with The San Francisco Examiner. “If not, we will find out why.”
Lee said companies were not quite meeting the local-hire numbers he envisions. But he said there’s a legitimate reason: a lack of necessary skills.
To that end, he said, the numbers will increase under two of his efforts: improving San Francisco’s middle schools and TechSF, a workforce training initiative the Mayor’s Office says is funded by $8 million in grants from the U.S.
Department of Labor.
The mayor said he has “adopted” 12 middle schools and plans to launch public-private partnerships to improve them, beginning with the Martin Luther King Jr. campus or Visitacion Valley Middle School.
“I’ve got some private partners that I cannot name at this point,” Lee said. “But they have indicated a huge, serious effort to help me get this done.”
That investment includes improvements to technology and curriculum.
“I got all this planned out,” Lee said.
Tech company leaders and Chamber of Commerce members “are telling me education is one of their highest priorities,” Lee said, because they want a better-skilled local workforce to hire from. Also, Lee said, “The technology folks that are young, they want to start families here” and don’t want to “spend extra money” on private schools.
Lee praised the job-training efforts of sf.citi, which is partnering with The City on TechSF. The influential coalition of tech firms is headed by angel investor Ron Conway, Lee’s prominent political supporter.
“The tech companies are helping us create the curriculum for TechSF, and then they will hire those folks as they graduate,” Lee said. The first class of 75 is expected to graduate in April, but there are currently no guarantees they will be hired.
Last month, Supervisor John Avalos said there is talk of expanding the 2-year-old local-hire mandate for the building industry to other industries, including technology.
“Let us fail first before we mandate more things,” Lee said. He said the “good story” is “everybody is making a sincere effort on this.”
A closer look at tech companies’ local hiring is expected later this month in a Board of Supervisors committee hearing requested by Supervisor Jane Kim.