The San Diego economy is at an important tipping point that will impact the future of the entire region.
As the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation (EDC) recently outlined in Future of Growth in San Diego: The Economic Case for Inclusion, San Diego has grown to become an innovation powerhouse. But economic growth has left many residents behind. San Diego currently has the fourth highest cost of living in the U.S., yet the report indicates that more than 1 million residents do not earn enough income to meet growing costs.
The widening skills gap is also a challenge. According to the EDC, Hispanics are projected to makeup the largest population group by 2030 but they are dramatically underrepresented in the region’s innovation occupations. Only 15 percent of Hispanics hold a bachelor’s degree or the higher education required for science and technology-related positions.
How will we power and grow our innovation economy without an educated and skilled workforce?
The San Diego Foundation recently announced $632,934 in grants for 10 local programs that strengthen San Diego’s innovation economy by building and expanding pathways to success for all San Diegans, including women, Black and Hispanic youth, low-income individuals and people with disabilities.
The grants, made possible through the Science & Technology Program, will provide outreach and educational opportunities, as well as stipend-supported internships to promising young people in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math).
The grant programs expand on previous success, and create more opportunities for underrepresented students to pursue careers in STEM.
For example, San Diego Mesa College, which educates a large Hispanic population, will help increase the retention rate of Hispanic and low-income students in STEM disciplines through mentorship, training and real-world career experiences. The Mesa College STEM Conexiones Community Scholars Program will address student skill gaps and prepare them for STEM career placement or transfer to four-year academic institutions.
Equity Through Opportunity
The Science & Technology Program has increased the number of students that benefit from training and internships with local STEM businesses, research and academic programs and mentorship opportunities. In 2017, the program helped more than 250 students pursue careers in STEM, and the 2018 program grantees are expected to support more than 325 students.
For every student that is directly supported through The Foundation’s Science & Technology Program, more opportunities are also created. Nonprofit grantees, such as Palomar Community College District, have been proactive in utilizing the initial investment from The San Diego Foundation to leverage additional support for their programs, enabling even more students to be served.
In 2017, for example, the Science & Technology Program granted $390,880, and grantees were able to use those grant dollars to leverage an additional $2 million from other public and private funders to promotes science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education across the region, particularly among young adults underrepresented in the fields.
Other leaders from the public, business and philanthropy sectors are also taking action.
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s OpportunityWORKS taskforce was established to close the skills gap, improve access to affordable education and connect underserved residents to opportunities in the city’s growing innovation economy and broader job market.
By opening more pathways for local youth to become scientists and engineers, The San Diego Foundation and local leaders are working to ensure the future of San Diego’s economy and quality of life is bright for everyone.
Help strengthen San Diego’s innovation economy by supporting The San Diego Foundation Science & Technology Program today.
About Katie Rast
As 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.