Advancing San Diego Intern Spotlight: John David Lopez & Candelario Caldera, Paragrine Systems

The Advancing San Diego (ASD) Internship Program launched in Summer 2020 in a remote-capacity amid the COVID-19 pandemic and aims to provide up to 100 San Diego-based companies with fully subsidized interns. This program targets companies with 100 employees or less, which comprise 98 percent of all businesses in San Diego, employ nearly two thirds of San Diegans, and account for 70 percent of job growth. A key issue for these companies has been a lack of time and resources to recruit the skilled talent necessary to continue their growth.

As students are closing out their Fall engineering internship experiences, EDC has rolled out this blog series to highlight the innovative local companies that comprise the second cohort of the program, and the interns they hosted.

In this feature, we sat down with John David Lopez and Candelario Caldera, interns at Paragrine Systems. As part of the second cohort of host companies, Paragrine Systems, builds air and ground mobility into single rugged and efficient vehicles. Both Lopez and Caldera are graduating students at UC San Diego studying mechanical engineering and electrical engineering respectively.

Read on for more from John and Candelario.

JDL: John David Lopez (pictured above)

CC: Candelario Caldera


Tell us about yourself.
 

JDL: My name is John David Lopez and I am currently a fifth year (third year transfer) Mechanical Engineering Major at UC San Diego. After graduating from Fallbrook High School, I began my college journey at Mira Costa College where I was then able to transfer to a four-year university in 2018. I am a San Diego native who loves the sun and plans to enjoy living here for as long as I can. When I am not studying, I am involved with Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) at UC San Diego where I have gladly spent my weekends working on collegiate level rocketry. My other hobbies include weightlifting, classic muscle cars, and Legos. Recently, I have had the opportunity to intern at Paragrine Systems, which is an awesome aerospace/defense company that I am incredibly thankful to work for.

CC: I am a third year Electrical Engineering student from UC San Diego. Interning at Paragrine Systems has been amazing. Seeing all the work that goes into the project was overwhelming at first; but I have come to find out that each task plays a key role in getting the bigger pictured finished. Prior to joining the team, I was not sure what turning an idea into a product would be like. It’s been super fun!

How has your experience in the Advancing San Diego Internship Program been, and what projects/assignments have been the most meaningful?

JDL: I have thoroughly enjoyed and have been grateful for the opportunity the Advancing San Diego Internship Program has given me. Interning at Paragrine Systems has allowed me to gain real world experience working alongside professional engineers. My supervisor, Scott Duffy, has been able to mentor me on the engineering requirements and decisions that go into designing an Air & Ground Utility Vehicle (AGUV). My main tasks include packaging the avionics systems on the AGUV, creating a system model for the components to interface, and reverse engineering parts to be utilized in the final design. The most meaningful aspect of my internship experience has been learning to accomplish goals and solve problems in a professional engineering environment.

CC: My internship experience is amazing. Interning at Paragrine Systems has been the best thing to happen to me in term of my professional pathway and career development. I think it is crucial to shadow; it gives you an inside look on how the job is and performed before you even take on a job. This internship has reinforced my motivation for becoming an engineer and has made me excited for what is to come!

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your day-to-day, and what challenges have you faced as a student?

JDL: Adapting to COVID-19 has definitely been a challenge—something I know that many students face. The pandemic has offered me new, interesting opportunities, as well as restricting things I have taken for granted in the past. My school specifically has allowed for asynchronous learning, which gives me the ability to structure my day differently. As a previous commuter student, it has been very nice to not have to arrive at school at 6 a.m. to then leave at 8 p.m. However, something that I have taken for granted has been the compartmentalization the university environment provided. In addition, I have also had to overcome the sense of isolation working from home. Frequent trips to the public park and group calls with close friends has been incredibly helpful, but I am sure we all look forward to the day when the world is back to normal.

What advice would you give to high school students looking for a successful career in the local software industry? 

JDL: I would tell high school students to never stop trying, even when faced with adversity, and to never give in to imposter syndrome. Being a transfer commuter student from a low-income background has definitely created some mental and logistical challenges, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel as long as you persevere.

CC: Continue to be curious!

Learn more about Advancing San Diego and our internship program.

Company contact info and additional information:

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San Diego’s Data Bites: March 2021 Pt. 2

SAME INTEL, NEW GREAT ‘TASTE’

In case you missed it, EDC has launched a fresh take on our long-standing Economic Pulse. Welcome to the second edition of San Diego’s Data Bites!

Each month the California Employment Development Department (EDD) releases employment data for the prior month. This edition of San Diego’s Data Bites covers February 2021 and reflects the lingering effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the region’s labor market. Check out EDC’s Research Bureau for more data and stats about San Diego’s economy.

Key Takeaways

  1. San Diego employers added back 31,900 jobs in February, undoing the lion’s share of January’s loss of 37,900 payroll positions.
  1. The unemployment rate dropped to 7.2 percent from January’s 8.0 percent even as nearly 33,000 people joined or rejoined the labor force.
  1. February’s employment report is reason for cautious optimism that the economy has turned the corner, but there is still work to be done. Employment remains 8.7 percent below year-ago levels, the labor force is still 2.1 percent smaller than a year ago, and the outlook is wrought with uncertainty.

First glance

San Diego’s labor market bounced back in February, following two consecutive months of declines. San Diego employers added back 31,900 jobs, undoing the lion’s share of January’s loss of 37,900 payroll positions (revised from -38,600) and lowering the unemployment rate to 7.2 percent from January’s 8.0 percent (revised from 8.1 percent). Even better, the unemployment rate dropped as 32,900 people joined or rejoined the labor force—more on that below.

Industry view

Job gains were widespread across industries. Every sector except Wholesale Trade, Retail, and Healthcare and Social Assistance added jobs, and losses in those sectors were de minimis.

The volatile Leisure and Hospitality industry added 12,800 new jobs, following a loss of 11,500 in January. Business and Professional Services firms also added 6,800 jobs, while Construction and Other Services—which includes dry cleaners, laundromats, and other personal services—each gained 4,100 positions.

Gains in Business and Professional Services were led by Administrative and Support Services, which added 4,900 new positions. This subsegment also includes temporary staff, and growth in this field can sometimes be a positive bellwether for future gains as those temporary staff members are hired on permanently.

Nonetheless, it’s important to keep last month’s positive report in perspective. Employment in every industry, except Construction and Utilities, remains below year-ago levels. For example, despite last month’s push, Leisure and Hospitality employment still rests some 33.4 percent below its February 2020 level, and Other Services employment is still 22.9 percent lower than it was a year ago.

San Diego workers flock back to the workforce

Perhaps the most encouraging piece from February’s employment report is the surge in the labor force. Labor force participation among women and minorities has plummeted across the country since the pandemic ensued; and while EDD doesn’t report labor force statistics across demographic groups like the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does, it can be safely assumed that a similar dynamic has played out locally. As such, the return of these workers is a welcome sign, if sustained, because it will help to mitigate the cumulative effects of income losses among those most vulnerable groups.

Again, however, it is important to keep this all in perspective; San Diego’s labor force is still 2.1 percent smaller than it was in February 2020, and this has masked the true extent of the remaining weakness in the job market. This is because people who leave the labor force are no longer counted as unemployed by EDD and the BLS. If there were as many people in the labor force in February 2021 as there were a year earlier, the unemployment rate would still be perched at 9.4 percent, more than two percentage points higher than the officially reported 7.2 percent last month.

Wrapping it up

In sum, the February employment report suggests the regional economy may be turning the corner after a couple of disappointing employment reports in December and January. To be sure, COVID-19 cases have declined steadily in San Diego County in recent weeks, and the strong drive to get vaccine shots into people’s arms is most likely reassuring companies that the end of the pandemic is finally within striking distance. If so, then we can expect job gains to continue in coming months.

Nonetheless, the outlook is wrought with uncertainty. It remains unclear whether current vaccines will be effective in protecting against new variants of COVID-19. If not, then a future spike in coronavirus cases could force additional closures and restrictions, thereby hamstringing the recovery. In addition, the pandemic has led to wholesale shifts in how companies do business. Consequently, not every company will need to replace all of the workers that were let go, and thousands of the jobs lost over the past year may never return. Moreover, many businesses forced to shut down over the past year may not reopen, meaning that the weight of the jobs recovery will rest on fewer companies, which could push the timeline for a full recovery further into the future.

All of this is to say, we should be cautiously optimistic. On balance, the prognosis is good that San Diego will enjoy a relatively strong recovery this year and into 2022, but there is still much work to be done. Now, more than ever, it is necessary that we get this recovery right.

Training and upskilling will be vital for the thousands of workers whose jobs may never return. EDC’s Advancing San Diego program is working to do just that.

It will also be imperative that San Diego small businesses are connected to large buyers in order to keep remaining businesses in the region healthy and to help spur a new wave of entrepreneurship to meet the needs of San Diego’s largest institutions and employers. EDC’s Anchor Collaborative is working with large local businesses to help ensure big companies “shop local” for their procurement needs. Our research estimates that a one percent shift in procurement spending by large companies to local businesses could create thousands of new jobs in the region.

You might also like to read:

Advancing San Diego Company Spotlight: Paragrine Systems

The Advancing San Diego (ASD) Internship Program launched in Summer 2020 in a remote-capacity amid the COVID-19 pandemic and aims to provide up to 100 San Diego-based companies with fully subsidized interns. This program targets companies with 100 employees or less, which comprise 98 percent of all businesses in San Diego, employ nearly two thirds of San Diegans, and account for 70 percent of job growth. A key issue for these companies has been a lack of time and resources to recruit the skilled talent necessary to continue their growth.

As students are closing out their Fall engineering internship experiences, EDC has rolled out this blog series to highlight the innovative local companies that comprise the second cohort of the program, and the interns they hosted.

In this feature, we sat down with Austin Blue, CEO at Paragrine Systems. As part of the second cohort of host companies, Paragrine Systems builds air and ground mobility into single rugged and efficient vehicles.

Read on for more from Paragrine Systems CEO Austin Blue.

Tell us about your company?  

Paragrine Systems is a developer and manufacturer of powered-parafoil utility vehicle platforms for commercial, humanitarian aid/disaster relief, and military applications.

Why was your company founded, and what are your current points of focus?  

Paragrine was founded to explore and progress the great potential of powered parafoils to provide a new paradigm for low-cost aerial mobility across a broad range of applications on a global basis. Our current focus is on developing unique mobility solutions for Department of Defense applications, expanding on core technology foundations, and preparing for production at scale.

How was your experience building a small business/startup in San Diego?

San Diego has been a great place for entrepreneurship and building a business. We greatly appreciate and have benefited from the community and infrastructure provided by Advancing San Diego, our phenomenal local universities, a vibrant business community, Connect, and a great culture of innovation and technical advancement.

What does growth look like over the next few years?

We look forward to continuing to expand the envelope for what powered parafoils can accomplish doing work and meeting transportation and logistics needs in some of the world’s hardest to reach locations. Over the next several years we will progress from our R&D foundations into production at scale.

How has your company pivoted as a result of COVID-19?

We have been working remotely and continuing to do our best to conduct business development by video conference to execute on our current contracts. In some ways it has been nice not to travel so much this past year and that has enabled us to stay focused. We have high hopes for the future and a great 2021 ahead.

Tell us a little bit about your interns and the value they bring.

Our interns have proven to be curious, capable, and engaged. We are grateful for their attention and contribution to our business and we hope that we have been able to help them learn more about what is involved in aerospace technology development from the ground on up. For all of us, it has been a much-appreciated opportunity during this challenging year to expand the team and learn new skills and work with new people. Our interns have been great and we have been grateful for the real value they have delivered.

In your opinion, what is special about San Diego’s science and technology community, and the talent that drives it?

San Diego has a wealth of diverse talents, interests, and leadership across so many industries and technologies. It is a leader in aerospace, bio-sciences, logistical innovation, energy sciences and much more. These are enhanced, nurtured and fed by great universities, a generous business community, a complimentary and beneficial connection to Mexico, and a strong connection to the Navy and Marines. There are so many favorable elements, in addition to the awesome climate, that all encourage and mutually reinforce each other to make this a great place to do business. We consider ourselves very fortunate to be able to live and work in this community.

 

Learn more about Advancing San Diego and our internship program.

Company contact info and additional information:

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Advancing San Diego Intern Spotlight: Kimberly Fajardo & Justin Skaggs, Aeromutable Corporation

The Advancing San Diego (ASD) Internship Program launched in Summer 2020 in a remote-capacity amid the COVID-19 pandemic and aims to provide up to 100 San Diego-based companies with fully subsidized interns. This program targets companies with 100 employees or less, which comprise 98 percent of all businesses in San Diego, employ nearly two thirds of San Diegans, and account for 70 percent of job growth. A key issue for these companies has been a lack of time and resources to recruit the skilled talent necessary to continue their growth.

As students are closing out their Fall engineering internship experiences, EDC has rolled out this blog series to highlight the innovative local companies that comprise the second cohort of the program, and the interns they hosted.

In this feature, we sat down with Kimberly Fajardo and Justin Skaggs, interns at Aeromutable Corporation. As part of the second cohort of host companies, Aeromutable Corporation develops low-profile and unintrusive technology capable of dynamically modifying the aerodynamic behavior of ground vehicles. Both Fajardo and Skaggs are graduating students at UC San Diego studying aerospace engineering and chemical engineering respectively.

Read on for more from Kimberly and Justin.

KF: Kimberly Fajardo

JS: Justin Skaggs


Tell us about yourself.
 

KF: My name is Kimberly Fajardo and my hometown is McFarland, California. Right after graduating from McFarland High School, I started attending UC San Diego, where I have been able to learn about cool topics like fluid dynamics, aerodynamics, and propulsion. I am now in my final year of college and am looking forward to graduating in June 2021 with a major in aerospace engineering and a minor in mathematics. I chose engineering as my career path because I have always had an interest in STEM-related topics. In October 2020, I was offered an intern position at Aeromutable Corporation, and am currently working with them in improving the aerodynamics on semi-trucks and reducing their fuel consumption, which is awesome!

JS: I am currently attending UC San Diego and am a transfer student from Southwestern College. I was able to apply for the internship through an email I received through my school. I have been participating in research laboratories throughout my time at the university, and it was a great change of pace to get involved with an internship. It is a nice opportunity to be able to work for the internship along with schoolwork, since it keeps me busy and teaches me a lot about how to work in the professional world.

How has your experience in the Advancing San Diego Internship Program been, and what projects/assignments have been the most meaningful?

KF: Having the opportunity to be a part of the Advancing San Diego Internship Program with Aeromutable Corporation and directly with the CEOs, Sandy and David, has been such a unique experience. I have gained valuable skills that help make me a better professional. One of the projects that has been the most meaningful to me has been designing three different manifolds for the pneumatic system Aeromutable is working on. My designs began on paper and I eventually was able to create the 3D designs on SolidWorks, get them approved, and submitted for manufacturing. It was a challenging process, but mostly a rewarding experience to be able to make a design happen.

JS: It has been an amazing experience to work with Aeromutable. I have learned a variety of skills involving engineering around constraints, researching for possible solutions, and troubleshooting when a process is not working as expected. Reporting progress and results is also an essential skill and organizing your work so another person can pick up where you left off is important. The most important work I have done is working with a RaspberryPi, and it has taught me a lot about sensors and interfacing sensors with the digital world. I have gotten a lot of experience with coding and can certainly add this to my toolbox of skills.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your day-to-day, and what challenges have you faced as a student?

JS: Working from home comes with a specialized group of obstacles. The access to tools and a workspace is limited, creating a time lag between some of the tasks I want to accomplish. The ability to catch up with coworkers in an instant is a benefit however, since meetings and updates can be done from home on the computer.

What advice would you give to high school students looking for a successful career in the local software industry? 

KF: Advice I would give to high school students looking for a career in any field would be to not be afraid of putting themselves out there and to start gaining experience early on in their career.

JS: Try every opportunity you have and keep doing what puts a smile on your face. It’s an amazing feeling to be excited to work, and there are a lot of jobs out there that can provide that happiness!

Learn more about Advancing San Diego and our internship program.

Company contact info and additional information:

You might also like to read:

Advancing San Diego Company Spotlight: Aeromutable Corporation

The Advancing San Diego (ASD) Internship Program launched in Summer 2020 in a remote-capacity amid the COVID-19 pandemic and aims to provide up to 100 San Diego-based companies with fully subsidized interns. This program targets companies with 100 employees or less, which comprise 98 percent of all businesses in San Diego, employ nearly two thirds of San Diegans, and account for 70 percent of job growth. A key issue for these companies has been a lack of time and resources to recruit the skilled talent necessary to continue their growth.

As students are closing out their Fall engineering internship experiences, EDC has rolled out this blog series to highlight the innovative local companies that comprise the second cohort of the program, and the interns they hosted.

In this feature, we sat down with Sandra Manosalvas-Kjono, co-founder and COO at Aeromutable Corporation. As part of the second cohort of host companies, Aeromutable Corporation develops low-profile and unintrusive technology capable of dynamically modifying the aerodynamic behavior of ground vehicles.

Read on for more from Aeromutable Corporation co-founder Sandra Manosalvas-Kjono.

Tell us about your company?  

Aeromutable is bringing aerospace technology into the trucking industry. Our first product being developed in San Diego is an active fuel savings device that dynamically optimizes heavy vehicle performance based on its surroundings and provides three times the fuel savings of its nearest competitors, increasing the trucking industry’s profitability while significantly reducing its carbon footprint.

Why was your company founded, and what are your current points of focus?  

Through their doctoral work at Stanford University, the co-founders of Aeromutable studied the effect of aerodynamic drag on heavy vehicle fuel consumption and identified the impact real time sensing devices have in the optimization of its performance. Aeromutable was founded to fulfill the mission of developing and commercializing technology that has the potential to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions while improving the bottom line of the trucking industry. With the support of various institutions, which include the Stanford TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy and the U.S. Department of Energy through the Chain Reaction Innovations program, Aeromutable is working towards fulfilling its mission.

What does growth look like over the next few years?

Aeromutable is currently working to bring its first full-size prototype on-road for testing. In the subsequent 12 months, we will continue developing our MVP and will produce a fleet-ready device that we will employ on routes with a pilot partner trucking company. Our pilot program and close collaboration will provide the operational testing with our fleet partners and invaluable insights that will allow us to bring our technology to market.

How has your company pivoted as a result of COVID-19?

COVID-19 hit the manufacturing communities particularly hard given that they require in-person work that sometimes requires close contact situations. When COVID-19 hit, Aeromutable was transitioning from benchtop prototype testing to manufacturing our first full-sized prototype, which required specialized manufacturing and shop access. We were essentially perfectly aligned to go into manufacturing mode when manufacturing practically came to a halt. So, while our product has not pivoted, our manufacturing and partnership opportunity certainly has. This has been just one of the many challenges of being a startup during COVID.

Tell us a little bit about your interns and the value they bring.

The interns provided to us through Advancing San Diego have been a great addition to the Aeromutable team. They have contributed to the development of multiple subsystems that will be a part of our prototype. They are applying the knowledge they have obtained from their engineering education at UC San Diego in real world problems. Through their internship, they are being exposed to a fast-paced environment of development where multiple engineering, logistical, economical, and practical constraints need to be considered. Their contributions have allowed Aeromutable to increase our pace on the development of our on-road and on-track prototype.

In your opinion, what is special about San Diego’s science and technology community, and the talent that drives it?

San Diego is uniquely situated near many top universities and multiple private and government research institutions, which helps create an environment of diverse and innovative engineers while maintaining a feeling of community that is hard to find. Furthermore, San Diego is perfectly located to provide access to some of the most important trucking routes, as well as being within close reach of larger, neighboring technology hubs like Los Angeles and a short plane ride to the Bay Area to further increase our opportunities for collaboration and growth.

 

Learn more about Advancing San Diego and our internship program.

Company contact info and additional information:

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San Diego’s Data Bites: March 2021

Same intel, new great ‘taste’

EDC is excited to unveil a fresh take on our long-standing Economic Pulse. Welcome to San Diego’s Data Bites!

Each month the California Employment Development Department (EDD) releases employment data for the prior month. This edition of San Diego’s Economic Pulse—now ‘Data Bites’—covers January 2021 and reflects the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the labor market as well as benchmark revisions to 2020 employment data. Check out EDC’s Research Bureau for more data and stats about San Diego’s economy.

Key Takeaways

  1. San Diego employers eliminated 38,600 payroll jobs at the start of the year. Job losses in January are typical as temporary holiday staff is let go, but December’s report showed no surge in holiday hiring in 2020.
  1. Job losses nudged the unemployment rate higher to 8.1 percent from December’s 8.0 percent even as nearly 18,000 workers fled the labor force.
  1. Annual benchmark revisions to 2020 employment data revealed that the economy suffered steeper job losses last Spring and ended 2020 with roughly 30,000 fewer jobs than were initially reported.

San Diego’s labor market kicked off 2021 on a sour note. Local employers eliminated 38,600 payroll jobs in January, nudging the unemployment rate higher to 8.1 percent from 8.0 percent in December even as nearly 18,000 workers fled the labor force.

Job losses are typical in January as businesses roll off temporary holiday help. However, what makes this report unique is that January’s job losses followed a decline of 6,200 positions in December (revised from an initially reported -5,300 jobs), which is extremely atypical for the holiday season. In fact, December’s decline marks only the sixth time in 72 years where employers have let more workers go than they hired.

January’s dismal jobs report likely reflects the struggles of local businesses amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic rather than seasonal factors. Burning Glass estimates that San Diego consumer spending is still trending about 10 percent lower than it was before the pandemic, and data from Womply show that roughly 30 percent to 40 percent—or between 30,000 and 40,000—local businesses have been forced to close over the past year.

Industry view

Employment declines were widespread across industries. With the exception of Manufacturing and Utilities—which added a meager 100 jobs apiece—every industry either lost jobs or stayed flat. Hardest hit was Leisure and Hospitality, which gave up 12,200 positions and continues to be the most negatively impacted by the pandemic. Retail, which shed 6,300 jobs, was a distant second, erasing nearly all of the gains made since Spring 2020. The decline in Retail, although disheartening, was somewhat expected, however, since national retail sales and local consumer spending have both remained weak in recent months.

The nearly ubiquitous loss of employment across industries is another indication that labor market weakness in January stems from COVID-related measures rather than seasonality. In a typical year, January job losses would be focused around Leisure, Hospitality, and Retail as holiday staff is let go. However, in more normal times, most other industries have remained stable instead of laying off workers like they did this year.

2020 was even worse than we thought

Also included in January’s jobs report were benchmark revisions to the 2020 employment figures. Typically, in periods of contraction, employment revisions are negative, and that is exactly what EDD reported.

Benchmark revisions revealed that San Diego hemorrhaged 248,000 jobs between February and April 2020, which is 25,000 more job losses than initially reported. Leisure, Hospitality, and Retail accounted for around 16,000 of those additional losses. By the end of the year, revisions showed 30,100 fewer nonfarm payroll jobs in the region compared to the initial estimates.

The additional loss of jobs also meant that the unemployment rate was revised higher. Initial estimates showed the rate peaking at 15.2 percent in April 2020; revised data revealed that joblessness peaked at a significantly higher 15.9 percent, which is more in line with EDC’s estimates at the time.

You can use the below graphic to explore how revisions impacted total employment in the region, as well as each of the industries tracked by EDD on a monthly basis.

The road ahead

San Diego’s job market is entering 2021 on a weaker footing than initially thought. More jobs need to be recouped, and there are fewer businesses to help carry that weight. Together, this implies that the recovery will take longer than anticipated even after San Diegans have been vaccinated against the novel Coronavirus.

Still, there are actions we can take to help speed things along and emerge even stronger than before. Now, more than ever, it is necessary that we get this recovery right.

Training and upskilling will be vital for the thousands of workers whose jobs may never return. EDC’s Advancing San Diego program is working to do just that.

It will also be imperative that San Diego small businesses are connected to large buyers in order to keep remaining businesses in the region healthy and to help spur a new wave of entrepreneurship to meet the needs of San Diego’s largest institutions and employers. EDC’s Anchor Collaborative is working with large local businesses to help ensure big companies “shop local” for their procurement needs. Our research estimates that a one percent shift in procurement spending by large companies to local businesses could create thousands of new jobs in the region.

You might also like to read:

Advancing San Diego Intern Spotlight: Noah Chavez, ALD Technical Solutions

The Advancing San Diego (ASD) Internship Program launched in Summer 2020 in a remote-capacity amid the COVID-19 pandemic and aims to provide up to 100 San Diego-based companies with fully subsidized interns. This program targets companies with 100 employees or less, which comprise 98 percent of all businesses in San Diego, employ nearly two thirds of San Diegans, and account for 70 percent of job growth. A key issue for these companies has been a lack of time and resources to recruit the skilled talent necessary to continue their growth.

As students are closing out their Fall engineering internship experiences, EDC is reintroducing this blog series to highlight the innovative local companies that comprise the second cohort of the program, and the interns they hosted.

In this feature, we sat down with ALD Technical Solutions intern and UCSD student, Noah Chavez. A part of the second cohort of host companies, ALD Technical Solutions is a cost-effective innovative solution provider that repairs, retrofits, and upgrades offshore and onshore infrastructures using high quality and high performance composite materials. ALD specializes in developing and supplying high performance, high temperature, high chemical resistance, and underwater composite systems. Additionally, the company provides material selection, engineering design, project planning, contractor/ installer training and approval, written specifications, on-site quality control, quality assurance, and technical oversight. You can learn more about the company via its Advancing San Diego Company Spotlight: ALD Technical Solutions.

Read on for more from Noah.

Tell us about yourself. 

I am a San Diego native and currently a senior at UC San Diego, majoring in Structural Engineering and anticipating graduating this summer. I also plan to begin my graduate degree in the fall at UC San Diego. ALD Technical Solutions has provided me with the opportunity to witness first-hand how theoretical topics can be applied to improve our surroundings. Thanks to the hard work of all the members at ALD Technical Solutions, we have been able to make a direct impact on our surroundings. I personally believe that the community surrounding us should be viewed as home, and this internship opportunity has allowed me to apply my knowledge in areas that will help me give back to the city I call home.

How has your experience in the Advancing San Diego Internship Program been, and what projects/assignments have been the most meaningful?

My internship has been valuable because of the positive impacts it has on our community. The overall well-being of our planet has long been neglected until recently. With new focus being put on our impact on the environment, ALD has found ways to not only improve our community, but to do so in an eco-friendly manner.

Some projects/assignments that have been most meaningful for me are retrofitting old and damaged structures, allowing for materials to be conserved, and retrofitting ACSR lines, which allows for the infrastructure in-place already to handle the demand green-energy-output puts on the power lines. These projects have been most meaningful to me because not only does it ensure the safety of my fellow neighbors, but it also puts our environment first.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your day-to-day, and what challenges have you faced as a student?

COVID-19 has limited the amount of accessibility I have to work on specific opportunities due to the fact that face-to-face meetings are necessary in our area of work. The limited opportunities provided makes it difficult to gain the required experience; however, Advancing San Diego has given me the opportunity to gain the proper experience, all from the comfort of my home.

What advice would you give to high school students looking for a successful career in the local software industry? 

It is easy to feel discouraged and as if your work is not paying off. I would always hate when my parents would tell me this, but my life experiences have only validated the truth behind the message: “Be patient, your time will come. “Just be patient, and slowly you will see the pieces fall into place.

 

Learn more about Advancing San Diego and our internship program.

Company contact info and additional information:

You might also like to read:

Advancing San Diego Company Spotlight: ALD Technical Solutions

The Advancing San Diego (ASD) Internship Program launched in Summer 2020 in a remote-capacity amid the COVID-19 pandemic and aims to provide up to 100 San Diego-based companies with fully subsidized interns. This program targets companies with 100 employees or less, which comprise 98 percent of all businesses in San Diego, employ nearly two thirds of San Diegans, and account for 70 percent of job growth. A key issue for these companies has been a lack of time and resources to recruit the skilled talent necessary to continue their growth.

As students are closing out their Fall engineering internship experiences, EDC is reintroducing this blog series to highlight the innovative local companies that comprise the second cohort of the program, and the interns they hosted.

In this feature, we sat down with Dr. Davoud Zamani, Technical Director at ALD Technical Solutions. A part of the second cohort of host companies, ALD Technical Solutions  is a cost-effective innovative solution provider that repairs, retrofits, and upgrades offshore and onshore infrastructures using high quality and high performance composite materials. ALD specializes in developing and supplying high performance, high temperature, high chemical resistance, and underwater composite systems. Additionally, the company provides material selection, engineering design, project planning, contractor/ installer training and approval, written specifications, on-site quality control, quality assurance, and technical oversight.

Read on for more from ALD Technical Solutions co-founder Dr. Davoud Zamani.

Tell us about your company and a little bit about yourself?  

ALD Technical Solution is a women-owned Cleantech startup founded in 2018 in San Diego. Our mission is to leverage the potential of advanced composite materials by developing new innovative technologies in infrastructure, power transmission lines, and clean and renewables energies. My background is in material science and composite materials. I am a co-founder of this company and work alongside other business partners who focus on different sections ranging from mechanical engineering, customer, and business development. On a day-to-day basis, I am the Technical Director and oversee the technological developments, most specifically for composite material applications.

Why was your company founded, and what are your current points of focus?  

My partner and I have many years of industrial background for advanced composite materials and saw there were a lot of room where we can use advanced composite materials. Advanced composite materials are typically used in aerospace applications but recently, developments have been made where applicable to other industries such as automotive, infrastructures, and renewable energy. ALD Technical Solutions focuses on developing new innovative applications of advanced composite materials. Within the infrastructure retrofit division, we develop advanced composite material technologies to upgrade and retrofit aged steel and concrete infrastructures. The other division is currently in development and focuses on the application of advanced composite materials in power transmission lines that can be used to increase the power capacity of power lines, which is needed due to significantly accelerating the increased penetration of renewable energies.

What does growth look like over the next few years?

Right now, we are conducting testing qualifications for a couple developments at UCLA Labs, which will help us determine ALD Technical Solution’s next steps. We see huge potential applications for the work that we are currently doing, especially foreseeing large developments within Southern California.

Tell us a little bit about your interns and the value they bring.

I wanted to start by thanking the for giving us this opportunity to host two interns for our company. I really appreciate the EDC’s assistance as they were very supportive and developed a very good program. We have two interns: one of them is a mechanical engineering student and focuses on mostly solid work, AutoCAD, designs, simulations, and modeling’s, while the other focuses on simulations, modeling, and customer demonstrations for our composite wire wrap technologies. Both are eager to learn, smart, and hard working. We have meetings twice a week where I get updates and discuss the projects. It absolutely is a good learning opportunity for them since they were exposed to industry and composite material applications.

In your opinion, what is special about San Diego’s science and technology community, and the talent that drives it?

San Diego is a nice place to live. We had the opportunity to live in different locations in the United States and Europe and we chose to live here in San Diego. San Diego is a tech hub, and we have UC San Diego and other colleges and universities that bring in a lot of talent. San Diego is also paying special attention to renewable energy and clean energy developments. Additionally, we have a composite center within the Department of Defense compounds in Southern California. All these factors played a role in why we chose to establish our company in the region. Lastly, San Diego does not deal with the infamous traffic issues of Los Angeles but still offers the various amenities of living in Southern California.

 

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San Diego’s Economic Pulse: January 2021

Each month the California Employment Development Department (EDD) releases employment data for the prior month. This edition of San Diego’s Economic Pulse covers December 2020 and reflects some effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the labor market. Check out EDC’s Research Bureau for more data and stats about San Diego’s economy.

Key Takeaways

  1. San Diego lost 5,300 jobs, on net, in December, which is not typical during the holiday season.
  1. The unemployment rate jumped to 8.0 percent from 6.6 percent in November amid job losses and growth in the labor force.
  1. San Diego’s “K-shaped” recovery will exacerbate longstanding structural problems in the economy, making the case for an inclusive growth strategy even stronger.

Labor Market Overview

San Diego’s labor market suffered a setback in December after new business restrictions were put into place to combat a surge in COVID-19 infections and an alarming decline in ICU bed capacity. Local employers let go of 5,300 workers, on net, last month, lifting the unemployment rate to 8.0 percent from 6.6 percent in November. A drop in employment for the month of December is atypical, since holiday hiring is usually in full swing. Last month’s decline marks only the sixth time in 72 years where employers have let more workers go than they hired in December.

San Diego’s unemployment rate is lower than California’s 8.8 percent but significantly higher than the nation’s rate of 6.5 percent in December.

The causes for the rise in San Diego’s December unemployment rate are two-fold, and the news isn’t entirely bad: First, and most obviously, job losses drove the rate higher. However, this was compounded by an increase in the labor force of 12,200 people. The labor force vacillated for most of 2020 but ended the year close to its February, pre-pandemic level—good news for the labor market heading into 2021, if it is sustained.

Industry View

Leisure and Hospitality employers let go of 9,600 workers in December, which was more than enough to lower total employment. The lion’s share of hospitality job losses came from Accommodation and Food Services, which gave back 10,300 positions. Other Services, Government, Manufacturing, Educational Services (private, non-government), and Financial Activities each lost jobs. However, the losses for all of those industries totaled just 4,300, less than half of the layoffs experienced in Accommodation and Food Services alone.

The weakness in Leisure and Hospitality drove an even larger wedge between the jobs recovery for high-paying and low-paying positions, exacerbating a worrisome trend where the income and wealth gaps in San Diego will likely widen exponentially as a result of the pandemic-fueled recession.

Despite the decline in topline employment, job gains were apparent in a number of industries. Business and Professional Services added a healthy 2,500 workers in December, fueled by a gain of 2,700 in the crucial Professional, Scientific, and Technical segment, while retailers brought on 1,900 additional employees despite weak retail sales.

Behind the Numbers

All in all, December’s lackluster employment report is a downer, but not an unexpected one. With COVID-19 cases surging in the region and hospitals running out of valuable space for patients, business restrictions became necessary from a public health perspective.

As mentioned, the decline in employment last month is not typical for December, but it may bode well for January’s employment report. Under more normal circumstances, January typically reveals job losses as seasonal workers are let go. However, given that seasonal hiring was more tepid in 2020, layoffs in January may be less pronounced.

Labor force growth in December is also encouraging if it can be sustained. The extension of federal emergency unemployment benefits should help to keep a floor under the workforce, since only people in the labor force can claim them. Additionally, despite the sharp drop in Leisure and Hospitality employment last month, many firms in the region are still hiring. Therefore, we can expect people to remain in the labor force as long as job growth resumes as we enter 2021.

Unfortunately, these are about the only silver linings in December’s jobs report.

Annual revisions to the 2020 jobs numbers will be released by California EDD on Friday, March 12. Typically, revisions show greater job losses than were initially reported during recession periods. This is because the Labor Department estimates the pace of business formations in a given month, which usually assumes the addition of at least some new jobs as new firms come online. However, a Census-like count of business formation carried out after the initial estimates are released usually shows more business closures, on net, which thereby reduces the level of employment. So, in all likelihood, 2020 revisions could reveal deeper job losses last year than initially reported.

The shape and timbre of the jobs recovery means that even more work will be needed to shore up the local economy. The exponential widening in wealth and income gaps from the “K-shaped” recovery to-date will mean even more aggressive policies aimed at protecting and empowering our lowest-paid workers. Also, declines in the labor force earlier in 2020 were in large part the result of women leaving the workforce. If 2021 exhibits a repeat of that contraction, then it will almost certainly lead to greater disparities in gender pay. Finally, housing has continued to become even less affordable amid high unemployment and rising home values across the region.

It will take intentional and effective action to get this recovery right. It is now more important than ever to ensure greater access to higher education and worker training for our region’s lower-income households. Additionally, companies may also want to consider employee-ownership models, like the one Taylor Guitars recently announced, to give workers a larger stake in their economic fortunes. By offering a pathway to higher paying, more stable employment, we can ensure a more resilient and vibrant San Diego in the future, which will benefit all of us for decades to come.

Learn more about San Diego’s right recovery

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Economy in crisis: Structural challenges will persist after economy recovers

Key Takeaways

  1. San Diego’s jobs recovery has left the lowest-paid workers behind.
  1. Disproportionate job losses and the possibility that lower-paid residents will owe large sums in back-rent will exponentially exacerbate wealth inequality.
  1. Lower mortgage rates drove up house prices, making housing even less affordable despite record job losses and elevated unemployment.

Needless to say, 2020 was a rough year. But it was far worse for some than others.

San Diego employers added a better than expected 14,300 jobs in November, including a generous push by retailers who put 1,800 people back to work even as retail sales backtracked. Nonetheless, the “K-shaped” recovery has persisted, where middle- and upper-income workers either never lost or quickly recovered their jobs while lower-income jobholders were furloughed indefinitely or laid off.

As of November, San Diego nonfarm employment rested 6 percent below its February 2020 peak. However, jobs paying less than $41,000 per year—the threshold associated with quality jobs in the region—remained stuck 18 percent below their pre-COVID peak. Moreover, low-income employment cratered by some 43 percent from February to April last year, compared with 15 percent for all jobs.

Additionally, six industries, including Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services, have reclaimed all of the jobs lost to the COVID downturn, whereas wholesalers have recouped a meager 11 percent of the positions cut last year and information has only recovered one in eight positions.

This could have lasting impacts even after the jobs recovery is complete.

More than 60 percent of workers in the lowest-paid positions in San Diego are non-white versus 56.6 percent in all industries. So, to add “injury to insult,” minority workers that have suffered through months of intense social unrest this past year have simultaneously juggled disproportionate job losses.

Fortunately, eviction moratoriums were put into place last year that prevented many people from being evicted for nonpayment. But landlords can once again legally collect on back-rent or issue evictions if the statewide moratorium is lifted on January 31. People making less than $41,000 are far more likely to live paycheck-to-paycheck. In other words, a large swath of the population is entering 2021 with sizeable arrears to be paid off—something that’s tough enough for low-income workers even while employed, and even more difficult for the 18 percent of these folks who are still without jobs.

Worse, the wealth effects from this downturn have been particularly stark. Middle- and upper-income workers—most of whom already had some sort of savings and are much more likely to be homeowners—have been able to capitalize on lower interest rates and higher stock valuations all while holding onto their jobs. Meanwhile, most people making less than $41,000 a year were unable to amass significant savings, let alone any sort of real wealth, in the months and years leading up to 2020. The outright loss of income for so many of these workers most likely means an exponential widening in the wealth gap in San Diego.

HOMEOWNERSHIP EVEN LESS ATTAINABLE

Speaking of lower interest rates, San Diegans took full advantage of the 210-basis point drop in the 30-year fixed mortgage rate between November 2018 and November 2020.

San Diego’s housing market is significantly more sensitive to mortgage rates than many other parts of the state and country, in no small part because of the high cost of living in the region. In November 2018, when the average 30-year mortgage rate was 4.9 percent, the median home value was $659,500. A mortgage financed on that amount, minus a 20 percent down payment, would have totaled $1,008,118 over the life of the loan, or $2,800 per month. However, the cost of that same mortgage after the 30-year rate dropped to 2.8 percent would be $780,496, or $227,622 less than the 4.9 percent loan and $2,168 per month. Given all of this, rising home prices over the past two years or so make sense from a microeconomic point of view.

Even so, a 22 percent year-over-year increase in home prices as of December 2020 amid record job losses and elevated unemployment seems suspect. Indeed, calculating a housing affordability index that takes unemployment into account shows that housing has become increasingly unaffordable.

WE MUST TAKE ACTION

In sum, San Diego is likely to face myriad structural issues long after the economy has technically emerged from recession. Income and wealth gaps are likely to have been widened just like they have after each recession for the past 30 years. And jobless residents who were afforded a temporary reprieve from being evicted may find themselves in a situation where they owe large sums of money to their landlords.

A debt-ridden middle and upper-middle class has been tough enough on the economy as college graduates pay off their student loans. However, lower-income households tend to spend a much larger share of their paychecks than middle- and higher-income households, so having these funds siphoned off into repaying back-rent could disrupt consumer spending even more markedly for months, if not years, after the dust settles.

It will take more than just empathy to bridge these gaps and get this recovery right. It is now more important than ever to ensure greater access to higher education and worker training for our region’s lower-income households. Additionally, companies may also want to consider employee-ownership models, like Taylor Guitars, to give workers a larger stake in the economic fortunes of the businesses they work for. By offering a pathway to higher paying, more stable employment, we can ensure a more resilient and vibrant San Diego in the future, which will benefit all of us for decades to come.

Learn more about San Diego’s right recovery

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