A New Tech Ecosystem
The rapid growth of digital tech companies and tech-driven manufacturing in the Brooklyn Tech Triangle has prompted an effort to meet the workforce needs of this job-intensive sector and provide quality employment opportunities for local residents. Brooklyn is one of the fastest growing tech communities outside of Silicon Valley, and projections highlight the potential for 14,800 to 22,000 tech workers in the Tech Triangle by 2015.
The goal of creating a tech ecosystem is to build a talent pipeline that addresses the range of skills needed for the tech cluster, from complex coding to entry-level positions, and that attracts firms from around the world through training people from Brooklyn neighborhoods and New York City universities. This ecosystem will dovetail with efforts like P-Tech and K-12 STEM programs and will also create synergies with companies in the area.
The Tech Triangle consists of a diverse and generally well-educated workforce—11 colleges and universities, more than half of the working-age population hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, and the public high schools report a 77% graduation rate. However there are pockets of under-skilled, under-credentialed workers as well. For example, 12% of Tech Triangle residents have not attained a high school diploma or the equivalent, and 11% of 16- to 24-year-olds are referred to as “disconnected youth,” those who are neither enrolled in school nor working. For these area residents there is a mismatch between their knowledge and skill sets compared to experience required by employers in the Tech Triangle.
Employment opportunities for the Tech Triangle’s workers are diverse. There is a great deal of entrepreneurial work underway in the Tech Triangle with digital marketing and design in DUMBO, science and technology activities in Downtown Brooklyn, and production activities taking place at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. That said, the businesses and associated jobs do not fit the traditional classifications and descriptions due to their entrepreneurial and cross-disciplinary nature, and rapid technological changes. These new and evolving skill gaps, combined with a labor shortage articulated by Tech Triangle businesses, create an opportunity for Tech Triangle postsecondary institutions to meet the area’s workforce needs.
There are building blocks and a great deal of good work taking place across the age and skill spectrum to help train and prepare the Tech Triangle residents for technology and creative jobs. Examples of these are BLDG 92 at the Brooklyn Navy Yard which houses the Employment Center and has placed more than 1,500 workers over the past ten years; the K-12 STEM Education Program at NYU-Poly, which is active in 27 Brooklyn elementary, middle, and high schools; the 54 career and technical education programs in Brooklyn High Schools; the Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow programs preparing disconnected youth for technician jobs at Shiel Medical; the Made in New York Production Assistant Program to train 60–70 production assistants each year; Perscolis technology training programs; the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) Training Academy to prepare public housing residents for jobs with NYCHA; Brooklyn Tech High School, among the top high schools in the country, that prepares its students for further education in the fields of technology and engineering; and the recently announced Brooklyn Technology and Education Consortium (B-TEC), a taskforce aimed at preparing Brooklyn’s most underserved communities for careers in the tech industry.
Training programs such as the Hacker School, The Flatiron School, and General Assembly provide high-end, deep-dive training in web development, coding, design, and other technical areas. Businesses themselves are also in the mix, with companies such as Technology Services Corporation and Cisco Systems providing training in the Tech Triangle.
Specifically, the challenges to creating a tech ecosystem within the Tech Triangle include:
- Challenge 1: New tech jobs, from advanced manufacturing to coding, require specific training.
- Challenge 2: The unique synergies between tech, universities, and local schools need to be more closely drawn together so that tech needs are met and local graduates have local opportunities.
- Challenge 3: The retail and cultural communities need to be pulled into the Tech Triangle to truly make a dynamic live-work-play ecosystem.
A number of initiatives have been proposed to address these challenges, a few of which are highlighted in more detail below:
Coder Training Program
Workforce preparation from entry level through incumbent worker training will be developed and delivered in response to the needs of media, creative, manufacturing, and tech businesses in the Brooklyn Tech Triangle and throughout New York City. These education and training programs must leverage public and private education and training programs, and provide for the skills and competencies as well as credentials needed to enter and advance in career-track jobs.
A first step will be the Web Development Training Program. This immediate opportunity dovetails with the New York City Department of Small Business Services (SBS) interest in supporting New York City’s tech industry. SBS has determined a need for web developers within the Tech Triangle and across New York City. A Tech Triangle Web Development Training Program can be designed as a short-term, deep-dive training program.
Tech Triangle Innovation Hub
The proposed Brooklyn Tech Triangle Innovation Hub would be a nonprofit, public-private venture designed to meet the education and training needs of technology, creative, media, and advanced manufacturing firms throughout the Brooklyn Tech Triangle and across the City. It would build on promising practice at the CUNY schools, private institutions, technology training schools, and community-based organizations, and provide for recruitment, assessment, training, hands-on experience, career placement, and follow-up services.
The Innovation Hub would also leverage research and development efforts under way in local schools and at the Navy Yard-based New Lab, a collaborative of design firms and universities located in a cutting-edge facility that will promote design and manufacturing innovation using the latest in environmentally-conscious processes and machinery.
The Innovation Hub would be housed in the Brooklyn Navy Yard with programs implemented by the area’s higher educational institutions, community-based organizations, private technology schools, and other entities as appropriate. The Hub would be established to create a talent pipeline for Brooklyn Tech Triangle businesses, and technology-focused businesses throughout New York City, while at the same time providing local residents with the skills they need to enter and advance in careers in technology, creative, media, and advanced manufacturing.
As the services grow, the Innovation Hub may emerge as a center for establishing model programs and curricula meeting the needs of the creative/tech sector that could be used both within the Brooklyn Tech Triangle and across New York State and the country.
Support NYU CUSP
In 2012, Mayor Bloomberg designated a major new applied sciences campus—NYU’s Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP)—in Downtown Brooklyn to tackle urban challenges with New York City as its laboratory and classroom. CUSP will set the research agenda for “the science of cities” and will “educate the next generation of engineers in how to apply that research, bring innovative ideas to a world market, and create a new, fast-growing,
and indispensable industry.”
CUSP’s long-term home will be 370 Jay Street, an underutilized building at the crossroads of Downtown Brooklyn.
CUSP will serve as a catalyst for new entrepreneurial ventures and an anchor for established tech companies.