Strengthening San Diego’s Innovation Workforce

RADLab participant
A RADLab participant demonstrates a virtual reality gaming environment

In February 2018, The San Diego Foundation announced $632,934 in grants for 10 local programs that expand a pipeline connecting young adults underrepresented in science, technology engineering and math (STEM) fields to college and career opportunities.

As part of this effort, The San Diego Foundation Science & Technology Program focuses on the preparation of a skilled, equitable workforce in subject areas that are specific to the needs of the San Diego region.

Now that the Science & Technology grant recipients have had some time to engage in the development of their programs, we are able to learn more about their impact and efforts to strengthen San Diego’s innovation economy.

In this blog, we’ll check in on two local programs focused on cutting-edge industries – video game development and “Blue Tech.”

Code to Career

The Research for Autism and Development Laboratory (RADLab) at UC San Diego is providing paid internship opportunities to high school graduates with Autism Spectrum Disorder to engage in the development of skills related to computer science, including video game design.

During the program, participants learn to create interactive environments utilizing Unity, a cutting-edge software development platform. These skills will then translate directly into fields such as virtual reality and augmented reality, where San Diego is at the forefront of innovation.

According to the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, San Diego is one of the premier U.S. markets for software development, and the field represents a $12.2 billion impact on the region’s economy.

With opportunity for growth in the region, this is a field that stands to benefit from the development of more local talent. Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder can contribute uniquely and substantially in technical fields, including computer science.

The RADLab environment offers a supportive environment that provides a pathway to career-readiness.

Building the Blue Economy

The Maritime Alliance Foundation is providing local high school students with internships, mentorships and networking experiences with industry leaders in the emerging sector known as “Blue Tech.”

According to the San Diego County Labor Market Analysis Blue Economy report, the “Blue Economy” is a sector that encompasses a variety of industries that have to do with the ocean, including technology, advanced manufacturing and information technology. Within the Blue Economy are Blue Technology or “Blue Tech” jobs, which are technologically-advanced activities and methods to solve water-related issues, and sustainable, science-based maritime occupations.

BlueSTEM Pathways summer interns
BlueSTEM Pathways summer interns visit Teledyne Seabotix for a career talk from Mary Grace DeForest, Director, Global Business Development

San Diego’s Blue Economy includes more than 1,400 local companies, supports 45,000 jobs and generates over $14 billion in direct sales. What’s more, the sector is one that is uniquely poised for growth in San Diego.

Greg Murphy, Executive Director of The Maritime Alliance, notes, “Blue Tech is a large and growing sector that requires a skilled workforce. And we need to develop homegrown talent to support these jobs.”

Blue Tech intersects with some very big issues facing humanity, including energy and sustainability. The ocean offers renewable tidal energy, is a major producer of food, and offers opportunities for sustainable actions around the re-use of water and preservation of coastlines and waterways. With so many potential careers in this industry, the development of the local “blue pipeline” is an important step in keeping San Diego globally competitive.

Philanthropy at Work

By increasing opportunities for STEM higher education, connecting young adults with paid internships in San Diego and establishing networks of current and prospective scientists, The San Diego Foundation Science & Technology Program creates a holistic approach that will support the regional innovation economy and San Diego residents for generations to come.

Help create a pathway to success for our next generation of innovators and engineers by contributing to the Science & Technology Program today.

Support San Diego’s Innovation Economy


About Katie Rast

Katie RastAs Director of Community Impact, Katie manages the Community Impact Team, overseeing The San Diego Foundation programs by stewarding and establishing a set of strategies that will support the mission and values of the organization, as well as maximize the impact of philanthropic investments made by donors and Foundation discretionary funds.

More About Katie