To open NYC Internet week, mayor Bill de Balsio used his welcome remarks to introduce a new program designed to bolster’s the tech industry’s workforce.
“This sector has risen to extraordinary importance; it’s the second largest tech center in the U.S. and growing,” the mayor said and then introduced his New York City Tech Talent Pipeline proposal: The program would aim to train thousands of local residents for jobs in the “tech ecosystem,” supported by $10 million from city funds, JPMorgan Chase, New York Community Trust and the New York Workforce group.
De Blasio quoted an Association of Better New York study that says the tech industry has generated 291,000 jobs in New York and is growing. He pointed out that those jobs aren’t only located in Manhattan but have spread to Brooklyn, are taking root in Queens, and he’d like to see more growth in the Bronx and Staten Island. He said these jobs “are high quality, exactly the kind that New Yorkers need.”
De Blasio cited two major issues that the tech industry faces in New York City: attracting sufficient talent and providing “universal, affordable, high-speed Internet access throughout the city.” Technology thrives “when you have a pool of talented people, the right infrastructure, and financial backing for entrepreneurial and innovative thinking. Increasingly that’s true in New York City,” he said.
In addition to introducing the talent-pipeline program, de Blasio pointed to ongoing tech programs that city government has introduced to spur tech growth and employment, including: 1) The Tech Talent Draft, which connects 4,500 students to 150 New York City tech companies with 90 universities nationwide and in New York; 2) Generation Tech, which provides mentoring and immersion boot camp training for New York City high school students to foster careers in technology; and 3) Establishing the Jobs for New Yorkers Task Force, dedicated to fostering more tech jobs.
Changing the entire educational system and aligning CUNY with tech jobs are critical components of fostering more skilled workers for the tech industry, de Blasio suggested. He pointed to the career high school Academy for Software Engineering, where students receive associate degrees and can step right into working in the tech industry as an example of a program that works. But he added, “The status quo hasn’t worked on many levels, particularly in providing the type of talent this community needs.”
In terms of extending broad band access city-wide, de Blasio cited the Harlem Wi-Fi program, which will provide free Wi-Fi to 80,000 people residing between 110th and 138th Street. “We can’t continue to have a digital divide that holds back citizens,” he stated. He noted that 10,000 antiquated pay phones will be turned into Internet hot spots. “We need to introduce more competition and explore our franchise agreements with Verizon Fios, Time Warner Cable to hold them accountable to provide service,” he said.
the mayor took a shot at Silicon Valley, still the No. 1 tech employer in the country. If this meeting were held in Silicon Valley, attendees would need to have driven long distances to get back to their workplace. But in New York, “people can walk back to work or take a bike, a Citibike or subway a few stops,” the mayor said. “It’s a community that’s vibrant and growing and people can see each other all the time, in a natural, organic way. They walk to work and can talk about a great idea.”
This year’s event comes as New York City seeks to assert itself as the east coast answer to Silicon Valley, with leading technology programs and a growing startup culture.
In his speech, de Blasio outlined in detail his administration’s strategy for bolstering the city’s tech sector.
The seventh annual Internet Week features more than 200 events, from panel discussions with tech visionaries like Chet Kanojia, founder and CEO of Aereo, to Q&A sessions with the people whose real-life story inspired the popular Netflix show Orange Is the New Black.