The Skills Gap on the Central Coast (CA) – My Take

A lot of friends and fellow “education change” people asked me to update them on the recent event in Santa Barbara –  Crossing the Skills Chasm on the Central Coast. So I brought my laptop, took notes and here they are!  I know I’m not doing all the speakers justice, so apologies in advance.

Michael Halliday opened up the night, and Deb Horne was the Moderator. Speakers included:

  1. Mark Schneipp, Director of the California Economic Forecast group
  2. Michelle Greer, VP HR at Procore Technologies
  3. Amir Abo-Shaeer, Founder of the DP Engineering Academy
  4. Paul Jarrell, Exec VP for Santa Barbara City College

Deb started by talking about the predicted skills gap for 2020, especially for technical skills. She showed a short video as well from the Diplomatic Courier’s Global Talent Summit 2016:

Mark Schneipp spoke first, and took us through the numbers, finishing with a look at California and Santa Barbara County specifically.

Stem workforce in US: largest has ever been. BUT:

  • Lower % of US students in stem higher ed than other OECD countries.
  • US last in tested 2015 millennials math numeracy skills vs other OECD countries
  • Problem solving in a tech rich environment – US down.  Basic computer software skills down..
  • Millennials have highest level of participation in higher ed. BUT weak skills in literacy, numeracy. Decline vs the past.

2.5 job openings for every new Bachelor degree holder in a stem field. Vs. 1.1 job openings for non-STEM degree.

  • BA degrees in demand: Finance, Acctg, Computer Science, Engineering, Business…

All time record high in CA for software development, computer syst designs, computer science in general.

SB had a peak in 2014 for technical jobs, slightly lower. Software high, engineering… There was a lull in 2014-15 – Raytheon, Sonos, Mentor, Citrix, Allergan, Clipper Windpower…downsized.

STEM in SB county – 9,000 jobs 2016.

  • All jobs average annual salary $53K
  • STEM – $100K

Locally tech companies are doing:

  • lots of training, internships internally
  • H1B visas to get STEM talent.
  • Linkedin big for recruiting.
  • Santa Barbara – biggest impediment to recruiting – housing.

Here’s a scan of a handout provided at the event.

Next up was Michelle Greer from Procore Technologies, who shared with us how they recruit and work hard to attract scarce STEM talent.

Home grown talent – partnering with UCSB, and many other universities around country. Internships – train students in skills that are lacking

  • Case study – Ruby on Rails… needed talent so interned 30 Computer Science students and trained them on Ruby. Most converted to employees.
  • Now long term talent devpt– interns 1 on 1 with senior engineers.

There are free and paid talent pools..InHerSight – new site targeting female talent  Angelist, many different sites out there.

Tangential skills sets – transferable skill sets.  Look for people in finance, insurance, who will be used to detail able to move to construction industry…

Employee referrals – 54% of offers last year went to employee referrals. $2K – $10K paid…worth it. Rather have money go to employees than agencies.

Relocation from overseas and around the country.  Help with housing, even for interns.  Pair with someone who’s relocated before…

Culture, values most important.

Amir Abo Shaeer from the DP Engineering Academy spoke next.

Academy instruction: project based, experiential, real world, showcase to public at end of year (sounds like BIE best practice to me!).

10th grade light project video.

  • Validates educational experience.
  • Imagine discussion with family member, friend coming over seeing light sculpture on mantel – “where did you buy this?” “I made it!” “Wow, how’d you do that?”…
  • Compare to standard experience: “Did you get your homework done? How are your grades?” Most of school is so hollow in comparison. [AGREE]

Regarding screening for talent…universities – focus on pure academics, set up to weed out students. Amir spoke about how at UCSB studying physics he ‘was being weeded out’

Senior year – create a solar water heater….first time in 5 years that he got a project. Single experience where his talents validated. Changed his life. “Success reference point”

How do we decide what Talent is.  Every college weeds kids out, despite having some of the best. Why not raise them all up rather than push them to drop out, quit? Referenced Malcolm Gladwell’s idea (David & Goliath) illustrating those who are bottom of curve at top University worse off than those at top of lesser university.

If you have the cream of the crop and can’t graduate those kids with a stem degree, somethings wrong with the institution.

If you don’t believe there’s a solution, you won’t find it.  Look at STEM and gender:

Amir taught gender-balanced physics classes so knew it was possible. Physics required. Big shift when ‘Engineering Physics’ launched initially: 2 girls 33 boys. Adding in that one word “engineering” somehow turned off girls though they were thriving fully capable in Physics work.

DPEA 50% gender balanced now. Amir says it IS possible, but you can’t find a solution if you don’t believe there is one as most think.

“You’d never throw 50% of your talent pool away”… if they’re interested and excited, background, gender doesn’t matter.

Amir told story of a senior girl who told him she wanted to study Mechanical Engineering at university, and said “I’m afraid the boys will know so much more. “ she had no idea she was so far ahead of the curve at DPEA. She was doing thing college students don’t touch until 3 years into it.

Why isn’t there MORE innovation and learning like DPEA?  No mechanism to support innovation in education [TRUE]

DPEA operating like a startup, set up a mechanism for innovation (has changed considerably as it grew).

Fortune 500s budget 15-20% of revenues on innovation to stay alive. But in education….Goal of a school board/state entity = allocate money, manage operations. NO Mechanism to support innovation.

“Teachers just have to wait for pendulum to swing.”   NCLB, Common Core…

Could build a mechanism in Santa Barbara to support innovation in education.

School is an apprenticeship for being a professor. (a researcher, academic).  Teachers “use this stuff everyday, of course it’s relevant.” But 95% of people won’t be academics and not being taught what’s important to their work. Insular aspect of education is fundamentally flawed.

What teachers know and are comfortable with will not address the skills gap. Need movement of people in and out of the system.

Paul Jarrell spoke next from SBCC, to talk about Skilling, Re-Skilling and Upskilling.

Yes, we get stuck in academics, noted system set up for weeding people out from very early on, not just higher ed.

He’s been in CA Community college system for 25 years.

Only 42% of employers believe recent graduates are ready for work.

Career lifetime value chart…middle skills job – 69 million now, 47% of all new job openings. Requires some college, post high school, but not necessarily 4 year degree.

Middle skilled jobs: associates, vocational cert, apprenticeship.

California – 1 million short over next decade. Only 1 mil being trained and forecast is for 2 million.

California Community Colleges looks at demand in their particular region and prioritize courses/programs based on that. Hard choices- limited resources, so things have to be cut. Largest higher ed system in country, based on institutions and student population.

SBCC has many initiatives including STEM transfer program, support for 1st gen college students, Career Pathways, Career Skills Institute for re-skilling. Also SBCC foundation that gives FULL scholarships to SB students for 2 years including tuition and books.


Q – Matthew, lawyer – I want people who are resourceful, can communicate, skills that can transfer…What about those skills?

A – YES, being able to communicate, collaborate, etc very valuable, tech skills can be learned.

Q –  There’s an enormous resource that’s 100% ignored – highly skilled people over 40. Why ignoring adults? Questioner gave amazing stories of Chemical Engineer who’s business folded, can’t get work in engineering, willing to take pay cut, any job, working driving truck right now, trying for 3 years. Another Navy Seal, highly qualified, couldn’t even get survival job lost his home. Millions of people available who are overlooked.  Said Procore only hired young people.

A – Michelle Greer said not true, we have all ages working at Procore

[Personally, I think there’s some truth to this in most tech companies. There’s a big need to help adults figure out what training they can do to fill whatever perceived gaps in skills employers see. It’s difficult to figure out.]

Q&A – how can an individual get access to data (Mark Schneipp)?  Mark said to email him and he will share.

Q – My son is a DPEngineering Academy senior –how can I help him not be weeded out, succeed in college?

A- Amir: your son will see opptys, has context now since he’s been in DPEA. (Amir said he walked by the machine lab every day, never knew what he could do there, missed opptys for 4 years, but DPEA students will know.) Your son should make a point to seek out opportunities. ALSO internships – go after that EARLY, your hands on experience and knowledge in DPEA will make it fairly easy.  Problem-solving, real work, design….Take advantage

Also suggested = Malcolm Gladwell – be big fish in small pond, don’t go to top school where weeding out and you risk being at bottom. Go to next down school and be at top.  Top tier of lower schools better than lower tier of higher schools.  Focus on fit.  Chapter 5 David & Goliath.

Q-  What to do with a liberal arts education?

A- Procore answer – still good! We hire a lot in marketing, sales, customer success. Many opportunities.   The life skills, comms, problem-solving important. Best programmers don’t have CS degrees – one had PhD in philosophy.

Q – How do we pick the right major? Have friends who start in one major then change? How get it right early on not make mistake?

Paul from SBCC said something like: We do things backwards, completing major then looking for job. Better to pinpoint what you want then go get the education. [YES! I say this all the time!]

———————————————————————–THE END.

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2017-01-19T12:42:30+00:00 January 19th, 2017|Categories: Education, Future Skills|Tags: , , , , |0 Comments

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