Advancing San Diego, employers identify highest regional talent needs

Now in its sixth round, Advancing San Diego (ASD) addresses skilled talent shortages and increases diversity in high-growth, high-demand jobs. A program of EDC and key community partners, ASD leads employer collaboratives that recognize local training programs most effectively preparing San Diegans for quality jobs; pairing students of those programs with local employers for paid internships; and strengthening community partnerships to power San Diego’s talent pipeline of tomorrow. 

To help students build meaningful careers in local, high-demand jobs in key industries, ASD welcomed its Business and Manufacturing cohorts this year, pairing 48 student interns with 25 small companies, of which 19 were woman-, person of color-, veteran-, or disabled-owned. All of the 48 student interns were considered priority students, meaning they identified with a historically under-resourced population, are a first generation or community college student, or currently live or went to high school in a low income neighborhood of San Diego. 

ASD is currently convening employers from the Healthcare industry and has recognized seven programs as Preferred Providers for their work in training Medical Assistants. Students from those programs will be placed in internships beginning in early 2022. See the full network of Preferred Providers here

Advancing San Diego by the numbers, 2021

48

student interns placed

25

small companies paired with high-demand talent

99

job applications submitted on Career Exploration Day

A core part of this work includes direct collaboration with industry. ASD convened six working groups made up of industry leaders from San Diego companies including Northrop Grumman, Rady Children’s Hospital, and Takeda, among others, who together shared the most-needed roles in their firms by sector. Each of their findings were summarized in the talent demand reports below:

These reports serve to inform curriculum for universities and education programs to develop our regional talent pipeline.

Learn more and get involved here, or contact us!

Taylor Dunne
Taylor Dunne

Manager, Talent Initiatives


What we learned at Career Exploration Day 2021

San Diego’s economy, made up of innovative companies doing life-changing work, is fueled by skilled talent. Each job in the innovation economy supports another two jobs in the region, allowing for San Diego’s rapid economic growth despite a global pandemic. However, future growth is threatened by barriers to quality employment that many San Diegans face. Changing skill requirements, existing demographic gaps in educational attainment, and a nationwide battle for talent, coupled with a soaring cost of living, continue to threaten San Diego’s competitiveness as a region.

As we work to get San Diego’s recovery right and build a more equitable, inclusive region, EDC’s Advancing San Diego (ASD) program aims to better prepare San Diegans for quality jobs, and expand access to diverse, qualified talent for San Diego companies. As part of this work, ASD hosted its second annual Career Exploration Day and Virtual Career Fair. Sponsored by Qualcomm Incorporated, the virtual event served to connect students from all over San Diego County, who are enrolled in employer-verified training programs, with opportunities across a diverse range of industries and professions. Via an online platform, ASD connected nearly 100 local students with 22 companies including startups Smartville and Flock Freight, established firms Booz Allen Hamilton and San Diego Gas & Electric, and many more. In the day-long event, students and employers had the opportunity to network and interview, share job opportunities, and listen in on career exploration panels with professionals in high-demand roles and industries.

“At Qualcomm, we’re looking to expand our recruitment of diverse talent while cultivating new opportunities to hire locally”, said Heather Ace, Chief Human Resources Officer at Qualcomm Incorporated. “Career Exploration Day offers us the opportunity to both connect with potential local candidates and support the broader talent development efforts being driven by the EDC here in San Diego.”

ICYMI, here’s what we learned from the event

1. Be a chameleon; learn to adapt:

COVID-19 has made one thing clear: Your plans may change. Different externalities will force you to change your strategies and the way you work. Take this opportunity to learn to be adaptable; this will help you be successful into the future.

As Sharp Healthcare’s Talent Acquisition Specialist Jason Pijapaert shared in the Healthcare and Life Sciences panel, “Being able to roll with the punches and having the ability to work collaboratively with a diverse group of people that have different mindsets, expertise, and opinions is vital in any workplace. Being adaptable to your environment and the different challenges that you will inevitably be presented with will allow you to grow and be better at what you do.”

2. Consider opportunities to say “Yes”:

Now, we’re not talking about taking on unimaginable workloads or saying yes beyond your boundaries. Instead, we mean saying yes to new opportunities, yes to learning new things, yes to working with a different team, yes to taking risks.

Lalitta Ghandikota, Senior Director of Talent at Element Biosciences, shared in the Healthcare and Life Sciences panel the key to her success has been saying yes to every opportunity. In the beginning, it may seem like you know nothing about what you just got yourself into, but those will be the times when you will have the most fun growing and learning. “I always say that the time in your career where you are having the most fun is also probably when you are most terrified,” she said.

3. Take time to learn: 

With millions of websites and video tutorials available, taking the time to learn a new skill or improve an existing one will give you an important advantage when looking for a job or an internship.

Dr. Michael Alston, Senior Staff Engineer at Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., says our most valuable employees innovate in ways that increase the productivity of other employees or create new products or services. On the Engineering and Manufacturing panel, he shared, “for students, websites like code.org (which teaches computational thinking), and Python.org (a versatile, widely-used coding language) are great platforms for building skills useful for innovation.”

4. Don’t forget about soft skills:

While hard skills like coding or data mining are crucial for certain roles, leveraging your soft skills can help you stand out. The ability to manage your time effectively, think critically about a problem, absorb constructive criticism, communicate effectively both internally and externally, and collaborate across teams is just as valuable as knowing a particular programming language.

Regardless of your industry or position, you’ll always need to work effectively with people of different backgrounds and skills to get a project done well. Leverage these skills when you’re speaking with recruiters to showcase a different facet of professional strength.

What now?

  • Interested in careers in key industry sectors? Visit ASD’s Preferred Provider Map where you can find leading training programs that have been certified by employers.
    • Looking to join our network of Preferred Providers? Sign up to get updates on ASD’s future talent pipeline management work.
  • Looking for skilled local talent? Contact Taylor Dunne, Talent Initiatives Manager, and we will help you get in touch with San Diego’s skilled talent pool.
  • Check out jobs at Qualcomm and many other local firms hiring across San Diego.
  • Learn more at AdvancingSD.org

San Diego’s Changing Business Landscape: Bottlenecks are squeezing bottom lines

Welcome to the fifth edition in EDC’s Changing Business Landscape Series, which will be published bi-monthly in the San Diego Business Journal and here on our blog. If you missed them, check out all past editions here.

Surveying the changing business landscape in San Diego

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every facet of life, including how businesses operate. Companies in every industry are rapidly re-evaluating how they do business, changing the way they interact with customers, manage supply chains and where their employees are physically located. This has massive immediate and long-term implications for San Diego’s workforce and job composition, as well as regional land use decisions and infrastructure investment.

To identify evolving trends in local business needs and operations, ensuring their ability to grow and thrive in the region, San Diego Regional EDC is surveying nearly 200 companies in the region’s key industries on a rolling basis throughout 2021 to monitor and report shifts in their priorities and strategies. In addition, EDC constructed the San Diego Business Recovery Index (BRI)—a sentiment index to measure companies’ perceptions of current conditions, as well as expectations for the future across several factors such as business development, employment, and commercial real estate needs. (An index value >50 reflects expansion, and a value <50 reflects contraction. More information on the index and how it is calculated is available here.)

These insights will help inform long-term economic development priorities around talent recruitment and retention, quality job creation, and infrastructure development. Companies are surveyed on several topics, with varying emphases in each wave.

Here are three key findings from the wave of surveying conducted in October 2021:

  1. For software companies, the struggle is now real. They have been among the most optimistic industries surveyed, but now face similar challenges to other industries.
  1. The market for skilled talent has never been hotter. A great convergence of talent needs is turning hiring difficulties into slower job growth.
  1. Supply chain disruptions appear to be pinching profit margins. Input prices have risen for many companies, but most are reluctant to pass along higher costs to their customers and opting to sacrifice earnings for now.

The BRI took a step back in October to settle at 54.1, marking the second consecutive decline since June. The topline index value edged 1.2 points lower from August’s 55.3 but is 9.6 points off its June high of 63.7. The deterioration stems from weaker perceptions of present conditions, but slightly more hopeful views of the future helped keep the overall BRI in expansion territory.

Companies reported a slowing of both revenues and earnings. This comes after a period of record earnings in some industries but could also be the result of prolonged supply chain disruptions that have choked off necessary inputs and simultaneously prevented sales. Yet, businesses surveyed also expressed continued difficulty hiring and retaining workers, driving a significant slowdown in job growth.

For tech companies, the struggle is now real

Firms in industries with limited remote work capabilities, such as Healthcare and Aerospace, continued to express relatively pessimistic views. Joining this list are Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and Software companies, which up to now have been among the most optimistic industries surveyed.

Software companies signaled revenues have begun to fall, along with an even steeper decline in earnings. Supply chain disruptions play a role here, as San Diego is top 10 exporter of services. Limited availability of or access to key inputs, as well as travel restrictions, have hindered San Diego Technology companies from growing their businesses. Making matters worse, these businesses also expressed far greater difficulty finding people to hire compared to the summer months, which is driving a significant slowdown in job growth. Taken together, these headwinds led respondents to sour on the economy—both presently as well as future expectations for the next six months to a year.

ICT firms have also lost some faith in their current and future economic prospects. Companies in this vertical are facing even greater supply chain difficulties than Software firms. Business development and hiring pose far greater challenges than they did in the summer. Worse still, worker retention has become nearly impossible as a record number and a record rate of people quit their jobs in September.

The market for skilled talent has never been hotter

Talent recruitment and retention challenges have undermined employers since before the pandemic began. What is new is employers reported a sharp slowdown in job growth as workers drive a hard bargain. Not only are workers seeking higher wages and more flexible work arrangements, but employers find themselves competing across industry for an increasingly limited pool of skilled talent.

The top posted occupation in San Diego during the last year, outside of registered nurses, was for software developers and software quality assurance testers. There were more than 23,000 unique job postings for those occupations going back to October 2020. The top posting companies for these jobs are tech giants, such as Qualcomm and Apple, as well as startups receiving record venture funding. However, manufacturers comprised a formidable second with 4,514 unique positions during that time.

Manufacturing in San Diego has long been advanced—producing everything from jet engines to medical devices—so elevated demand for software developers working on unmanned aerial systems or DNA sequencing may not be all that surprising. Nevertheless, digging a bit deeper, we find the second most listed skill among Manufacturing job postings was for Teradata SQL, an open-source database management system. In fact, during the past 12 months, Manufacturing job postings that included Teradata SQL quadrupled and represent nearly 71 percent of all postings seeking that skillset. The median advertised annual salary for jobs requiring this skillset is $126,000, which is up 40 percent from a year earlier, and about $5,000 more than in either San Francisco or San Jose, and about $30,000 more than in Seattle.

The demand for skilled talent is rising rapidly and spreading across industries. Unfortunately, the supply of that talent has not kept pace. In fact, census data show an overall decline in the number of total degree holders in the region since 2017. A rising cost of living against a backdrop of increasing competition from “tech markets” across the globe poses a real challenge for local companies. With still more than 86,000 people unemployed, it has never been more important that the region invest in upskilling and building a pipeline of local talent to fuel San Diego’s recovery and future growth.

Supply chain disruptions appear to be squeezing profit margins

Supply chain disruptions and inflation continue to dominate headlines. While these challenges appear to be temporary, they are impacting consumers and the business decisions of local companies. Companies surveyed indicated supply chains are just as challenging now as they were in June. Furthermore, these challenges are directly tied to increases in input prices. This is leaking downstream into business development and sales, which employers, on balance, now rate as only slightly expansionary.

As such, some companies are considering passing along higher input costs as margins get squeezed from both sides. This decision largely depends on the magnitude of price increases that companies are facing themselves. Most companies are willing to absorb the bulk of increased costs when those increases are relatively small; tolerance for deeper margin cuts were much smaller. Only one in four companies indicated wanting to pass along at least half of those increased costs, where input prices have risen less than five percent. However, companies are nearly twice as likely (44 percent) to do so where input prices rose more than five percent—principally those in Manufacturing.

Passing along increased costs is a short-term strategy to a complex problem. As such, some companies are reevaluating their supply chains, not just in terms of suppliers but also the networks they rely upon to receive inputs or distribute products. Of the companies surveyed, only 14 percent indicated currently using the Port of San Diego. However, nearly double (27 percent) expressed a willingness to do so in the future.

The survey results continue to reflect an uneven recovery across industries. The reported trends in employment line up squarely with recent jobs reports for the region. In total, San Diego establishments added an underwhelming 3,600 jobs to the economy in September. The sharp slowdown in job growth helps explain the upward shift in remote work adoption as well as future expectations for remote work accommodations. There are many surveys of workers, both locally and nationally, indicating that desires for flexibility and remote work are strong and sticky. Despite these challenges, employers surveyed remain optimistic about the next six to 12 months albeit somewhat more modest plans for expansion.

Stay tuned for more on San Diego’s changing business landscape. EDC will be back every other month with more trends and insights. For more data and analysis, visit our research page.

Take the next survey here

This research is made possible by:

A note from Mark…

Life Sciences innovation is at center stage of San Diego economy

As my mind continues to focus on the health of our community and our economy, I find so many of my conversations centering on the work of San Diego’s Life Sciences industry. Long an anchor of our region’s innovation economy, the Science and Biotech sectors are taking center stage in more ways than ever before—leading in vaccination and testing innovation, and in inbound financial investment and commercial real estate demand.

A key finding from our Q3 Economic Snapshot reveals that our local Life Sciences industry attracted nearly $1 billion in funding during the quarter—nearly 70 percent more than the amount received in the same quarter last year. Just last month, San Diego’s elected leaders were at the center of a deal to reduce prescription drug costs, while also supporting the funding model for scientific research and innovation that enables life-changing drugs, therapeutics, and cures to find their way to market—many from right here in San Diego.

With all of this swirling around us, it is no surprise that a great deal of EDC’s work continues to focus on the growth and support of the skilled workers and quality jobs that power San Diego’s Life Sciences industry, including the work summarized below:

  • Advancing San Diego‘s recently released Talent Demand Report outlines key talent needs in the Life Sciences industry, as determined by employers. The program is currently accepting applications for Preferred Providers of Life Sciences talent here.
  • EDC’s Life Sciences Task Force is working to build a strategic economic development framework for industry support in order to enhance the ability of Life Sciences companies to discover, grow, and thrive in the San Diego region. To complement this work by EDC’s economic development team and further support talent attraction and retention in the industry, San Diego: Life. Changing. will be pivoting its focus to primarily feature scientific innovation and opportunities for talent.
  • Current MetroConnect V finalist White Labs, along with three other diverse companies, will compete for an additional $25,000 in funding towards their international expansion strategies during MetroConnect’s virtual Grand Prize PitchFest on November 15, 2021. Register here to cast your vote—and apply HERE to be part of MetroConnect VI and take your company global with us.

With gratitude and optimism,

Mark Cafferty

Read edc’s monthly report

Release: Life Sciences Talent Demand Report and Preferred Provider Application

Advancing San Diego has released its sixth Talent Demand Report, this time focusing on the Life Sciences industry. Advancing San Diego joined forces with Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC) to collaborate on a first-of-its-kind cross-regional workforce development study between two California metros using the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Talent Pipeline Management framework. The two organizations worked together to identify:

  • A high-demand occupation in need of a strengthened and diversified talent pipeline
  • The skills needed to fill that occupation in an industry that fuels the economies of both regions.

By engaging employers from both San Diego and Los Angeles, some of which have locations in both regions, Advancing San Diego and LAEDC are working to create a common language and understanding of employer need throughout Southern California.

VIEW THE FULL REPORT

APPLY TO BE A PREFERRED PROVIDER OF LIFE SCIENCES TALENT

 

Resources

  • Watch the Talent Demand Webinar where we release the report and walk through the application process HERE.
  • View and download the full list of skills criteria HERE.
  • Download a Google Doc version of the Preferred Provider application to prepare responses HERE.

About Advancing San Diego:

Advancing San Diego is a collaborative effort to better prepare San Diegans for quality jobs via locally-serving education institutions and expand access to diverse, qualified talent for San Diego companies. The program works to help the region meet its inclusive growth goals by strengthening relationships between local industry and education systems. Better alignment between these systems will mean that the region can collectively prepare San Diegans for high-demand jobs, and local employers – many of which are small companies – can establish or expand recruitment relationships with locally-serving institutions. Learn more about the program here.

How we do it:

  • Gather job skills requirements through employer working groups
  • Share insights with education partners and publicly recognize programs as industry-approved Preferred Providers of talent
  • Build a network of locally-serving Preferred Provider programs and connect companies to students of those programs, including fully-subsidized internships for small companies

 

The collaboration between Advancing San Diego and LAEDC was made possible by:

Advancing San Diego is made possible by JP Morgan Chase, and is a collaborative effort by the following organizations:

Other resources you may be interested in:

Questions? Contact us:

Taylor Dunne
Taylor Dunne

Manager, Talent Initiatives

8 reasons we love things #MadeInSD

San Diego is home to a vibrant manufacturing cluster that spans many industries, including defense, shipbuilding, medical devices, cleantech, craft brewing, and sports and active lifestyle. And thanks to a highly-skilled workforce, robust training programs, and close proximity to Mexico, the San Diego region boasts nearly 3,150 manufacturing companies currently supporting more than 108,000 jobs. More on the industry here.

In celebration of National Manufacturing Day 2021, here are just a few reasons everyone can benefit from the goods/services made in San Diego:

1. To up our sports game

Skateboarding, surfing, biking, golfing…you can do it all with San Diego’s best sports tech.

Check out: Solid Surfboards, Xterra Skate, Juiced Bikes, ElliptiGO, Callaway GolfTaylorMade Golf

2. To set trends

It’s easy to support San Diego manufacturing and set trends, with companies like Nixon, Pura Vida, and Knockaround designing fashion-forward accessories.

Check out: Nixon, Blenders, Knockaround, Allett, Pura Vida

3. To enjoy the outdoors

It’s hard not to spend time outdoors when you live in year-round sunshine. Luckily, San Diego companies have you covered, whether you need to capture your adventures on camera or protect your skin for a day in the sun.

Check out: GoPro, CoolaSun BumAmavara Skincare, Lotus Sustainables

4. To improve our homes

One product, dozens of uses… San Diego manufacturers like WD-40 and Dr. Bronner’s are big believers in efficiency when it comes to household products.

Check out: WD-40Dr. Bronner’s

5. To make music

San Diego manufacturing is music to our ears with beautifully crafted guitars and banjos made right here in our own backyard.

Check out: Taylor Guitars, Deering Banjos

6. To help planet Earth

With San Diego’s proximity to beautiful beaches, mountains, and parks, our companies know how important it is to care for our planet through thoughtful sustainable products.

Check out: Lotus Sustainables, Verity Case

7. To taste something delicious

San Diego knows how to deliver on taste, whether you’re in the mood for craft beer or something sweet. Though North County leads the way with its many breweries and Bitchin’ Sauce, there are plenty of treats to go around no matter where you are in the region.

Check out: Stone Brewing, Bitchin’ Sauce, Suja Juice, White Labs, Modern Times, GelatoLove, Maya’s Cookies, The Mulk

8. To make the world a healthier place

From research to medical device manufacturing, San Diego is a thriving hub for biotech in all its forms. Device companies like BD and Illumina are leading the way when it comes to both preventative health and effective care.

Check out: BDIllumina, DermTech, NuVasive, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Dexcom

More on manufacturing:

Does your San Diego manufacturing company need help finding resources, or just want to know more about San Diego’s thriving manufacturing scene? Click here to learn more, and get in touch with EDC for custom help

More on MFG Day 2021

You may also like:

San Diego’s Changing Business Landscape: Companies struggle to keep up with resurgent growth

Welcome to the fourth edition in EDC’s Changing Business Landscape Series, which will be published bi-monthly in the San Diego Business Journal and here on our blog. If you missed them, check out the March, May, and July editions.

Surveying the changing business landscape in San Diego

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every facet of life, including how businesses operate. Companies in every industry are rapidly re-evaluating how they do business, changing the way they interact with customers, manage supply chains and where their employees are physically located. This has massive immediate and long-term implications for San Diego’s workforce and job composition, as well as regional land use decisions and infrastructure investment.

To identify evolving trends in local business needs and operations, ensuring their ability to grow and thrive in the region, San Diego Regional EDC is surveying nearly 200 companies in the region’s key industries on a rolling basis throughout 2021 to monitor and report shifts in their priorities and strategies. In addition, EDC constructed the San Diego Business Recovery Index (BRI)—a sentiment index to measure companies’ perceptions of current conditions, as well as expectations for the future across several factors such as business development, employment, and commercial real estate needs. (An index value >50 reflects expansion, and a value <50 reflects contraction. More information on the index and how it is calculated is available here.)

These insights will help inform long-term economic development priorities around talent recruitment and retention, quality job creation and infrastructure development. Companies are surveyed on several topics, with varying emphases in each wave.

Here are three key findings from the fourth wave of surveying conducted in August 2021:

  1. Life Sciences companies struggle to keep pace. Employers reported higher earnings and headcount but also increased difficulty attracting and retaining talent
  1. Supply chain disruptions hurt business development. The more profound impact of prolonged supply chain issues may be on San Diego business operations not local consumers.
  1. Remote work is driving companies to scale down office space. Life Sciences and Manufacturing are the exception, where rising sales and increased staffing will require companies to add space.

The BRI slid 8.4 points in August to settle at 55.3 after coming in at a solid 63.7 in June. August’s read suggests that the recovery could be slowing and reflects deteriorating views of present business conditions and slightly less upbeat expectations for the next six to 12 months.

All but two subindex values declined in August. The renewed challenges faced by businesses led many to temper their future expectations somewhat, though the expectations subindex remained comfortably in expansionary territory at 61.8. While companies still anticipate an improving local economy over the next six to 12 months, the economic expectations subindex for six months out fell 16.4 points from 83.2 in June to 66.8 in August. Meanwhile, the subindex for economic conditions 12 months out fell 15.3 points from an exuberant 92.0 to a more measured but still optimistic value of 76.7.

Life Sciences companies struggle to keep pace

Employers surveyed reported an acceleration in hiring; the first time the employment subindex moved into expansionary territory. While this is welcome news, employers also reported increased difficulty hiring new workers. Though much attention has been given to the suggestion that extended unemployment benefits are keeping the unemployed from returning to work, the data doesn’t seem to support it. In fact, many of the pre-pandemic hiring trends have persisted and the industries having the hardest time filling jobs are those that are high-skill and high-paying. There were more than 118,000 unique job postings across the region during the month of August. The top job posting industries fall into the Tech and Life Sciences clusters and the most posted occupation was Software Developer (yet again).

San Diego Life Sciences companies have been struggling to add talent fast enough. These companies have been at the forefront of developing treatments and producing medical devices aimed at combatting COVID-19. As such, they have grown rapidly, drawing more than $9 billion in venture capital funding since the pandemic began. While Life Sciences companies reported higher revenues, earnings and employment relative to before the pandemic began, they also report the greatest difficulties filling new positions, keeping their highly in-demand talent from competitors, and dealing with suppliers and vendors. Despite these challenges, most have great expectations for the year ahead, with plans for increasing staff, their physical footprint and remote work capabilities.

Supply chain disruptions hurt business development

One of the longest lasting impacts of the pandemic has been on global supply chains. Companies across the country remain light on inventory even as demand for goods from furniture and clothing to recreational goods and electric bicycles has jumped. In San Diego, consumer spending is now up 11 percent compared to February 2020 before any COVID-related shutdowns began. Many consumer goods are manufactured overseas, and as the Delta variant has spread in many parts of Asia, production has slowed or even halted. While supply chain disruptions may be affecting what San Diegans can buy and the prices they will pay, the more profound impact may be in what San Diego companies can sell and to whom.

Across all industries, San Diego companies noted continuing difficulties with managing suppliers and vendors. From Aerospace and Manufacturing to Software and Life Sciences, supply chain struggles have become more disruptive throughout the summer months. Upstream labor shortages have reduced production, port and travel delays led to late or canceled shipments, and the unavailability of microchips and plastics prevented companies from delivering finished goods and even services. This may help explain that while revenues and earnings are up, new business development is becoming increasingly difficult for companies surveyed, with the subsegment BRI falling sharply into contractionary territory of 36.1 in August from 51.7 in June.

These delays and disruptions not only hurt the companies that depend on raw materials and intermediate goods, they also directly impact the more than 54,000 people employed in San Diego’s Transportation and Logistics value chain. Furthermore, supply chain disruptions to San Diego companies hinders their ability to serve customers across the world. San Diego is a top 10 services-exporting metro, specializing in Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services like Research and Development (R&D), Cybersecurity, Engineering, and Software. These industries have massive impacts on the local economy with each 100 direct jobs supporting 200 more elsewhere in the region.

Remote work is driving companies to scale down office space

After more than 18 months of remote work, with multiple fits and starts to get back into the office, many companies are coming to terms with some form of permanent remote work for their staff. The high levels of efficiency gains reported in the June survey has since subsided but remain net positive and strongly so. Employers are not necessarily looking to further expand their remote work capabilities or adopt new technologies for remote work, but many report a high desire among their workforce to maintain remote work options. Several reports from across the country and industry show that workers are primarily interested in flexible work arrangements that allow them to go into the office as needed while being able to manage their personal lives and avoid unnecessary commutes when possible. This flexibility is especially important to working parents facing unpredictable school and daycare disruptions as the Delta variant causes classrooms to temporarily shut down, sending their children back home.

With fewer workers in the office full time, more companies are making the decision to reduce their physical footprint. Many Technology and Software companies report difficulty justifying large, empty offices and thus plan to scale down significantly over the next year. Even companies in Education and Healthcare, that serve customers in-person, are moving back-office workers to either hybrid or fully remote work environments.

However, there are still companies looking to add space. These are mostly concentrated in Life Sciences and Manufacturing, where strong sales and increased hiring require more room to accommodate this growth. While many of these companies indicated plans to add office space, even more need industrial and lab space for R&D. Currently, there is almost 7.7 million square feet of industrial and flex space available and nearly 19 million square feet of office available across the region. The growing needs of companies suggests the balance may need to shift in the other direction.

Whether pharmaceuticals or beer, San Diego companies have long produced the things that make life more comfortable and more enjoyable. These companies also drive economic growth in our region. It is important that they have the assets they need, both in terms of physical infrastructure and skilled talent, to grow and thrive in San Diego.

Stay tuned for more on San Diego’s changing business landscape. EDC will be back every other month with more trends and insights. For more data and analysis visit our research page.

Take the next survey here

This research is made possible by:

San Diego’s Changing Business Landscape: Increasing optimism despite continued challenges

Welcome to the third edition in EDC’s Changing Business Landscape Series, which will be published bi-monthly in the San Diego Business Journal and here on our blog. If you missed them, check out the March and May editions.

Surveying the changing business landscape in San Diego

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every facet of life, including how businesses operate. Companies in every industry are rapidly re-evaluating how they do business, changing the way they interact with customers, manage supply chains, and where their employees are physically located. This has massive immediate and long-term implications for San Diego’s workforce and job composition, as well as regional land use decisions and infrastructure investment.

To identify evolving trends in local business needs and operations, ensuring their ability to grow and thrive in the region, EDC is surveying more than 200 companies in the region’s key industries on a rolling basis throughout 2021 to monitor and report shifts in their priorities and strategies. In addition, EDC constructed the San Diego Business Recovery Index (BRI)—a sentiment index to measure companies’ perceptions of current conditions, as well as expectations for the future across several factors such as business development, employment and commercial real estate needs. (An index value >50 reflects expansion, and a value <50 reflects contraction. More information on the index and how it is calculated is available here.)

These insights will help inform long-term economic development priorities around talent recruitment and retention, quality job creation, and infrastructure development. Companies are surveyed on several topics, with varying emphases in each wave.

Here are three key findings from the third wave of surveying conducted in June 2021:

  1. We are amid a great talent reshuffling. Businesses report increasing difficulty hiring and retaining talent, meanwhile the quits rate is at historic highs.
  1. Supply chains remain knotted up. The strategic importance of our cross-border trade has never been clearer.
  1. Space needs are in flux as companies prepare for return to office. Demand for office space may be waning, but life sciences companies are looking to add lab space.

San Diego County firms built on the enthusiasm expressed in April’s survey, with the BRI advancing from 58.9 in April to 63.7 in June. The topline index was pulled higher by more upbeat views of, both, present conditions and expectations for the future. The present conditions index segment rose from 56.1 in April to 59.3 in June while the expectations segment climbed from 65.4 to 73.9 during that time. Business respondents in the region confirmed several trends that have made headlines recently. Companies stated that business conditions have improved significantly over the past two months (due in no small part to California’s reopening in June) while also noting that sourcing talent and suppliers has become significantly more difficult.

A great talent reshuffling

Companies reported that revenues and earnings have improved since April and thus optimism over the next six to 12 months has increased. Expectations are also strong in San Diego’s Innovation cluster. Businesses in this group conveyed that they plan to hire more aggressively in the coming months. This is particularly good news, since each new Innovation job supports another two jobs elsewhere in the regional economy.

Nonetheless, companies also reported having a tougher time attracting new talent as well as increased difficulty retaining existing workers. There has been much ado about labor shortages and the impact of increased and extended unemployment benefits, but the data show that there is a much more nuanced story. First, there is a large mismatch between the talent in-demand and the talent available to work. As of May (most recently available data at time of writing), there were 104,400 people unemployed in the San Diego region and more than 115,000 job openings. However, the top hiring industries are Administrative and Support Services, Professional Services and Manufacturing industries (nearly 40 percent of unique postings), whereas the bulk of the unemployed come from Leisure and Hospitality.

Second, there are record numbers of workers quitting their jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics measures the proportion of workers who voluntarily leave their job relative to total employment. This “quit rate” sat at 2.5 percent in May 2021 after falling from 2.8 percent in April—the highest ever recorded. The Conference Board survey’s labor market differential, another measure of views on whether jobs are plentiful or hard to get, vaulted from 36.9 in May 2021 to 43.5 in June. That is the highest level since 2000.

All this quitting not only reflects confidence in the availability of work, but also the changing needs and desires of workers. The San Diego Association of Governments surveyed both employers and employees earlier this year and found that only 36 percent of employers expect to have one or more employees working from home at least one day per week. Meanwhile 44 percent of employees surveyed expect to work from home an average of 1.2 days per week. This difference in expectations partly reflects differences in opinion of how remote work has impacted productivity—only nine percent of employers reported increased productivity during the pandemic versus 48 percent of employees.

Flexibility will be key to keeping and attracting the best and brightest of workers. Perhaps the companies EDC surveyed understand this better than most, as they indicated both improved efficiencies from, as well as increased planned future utilization of, remote work technologies in June compared to April.

Investing in supply chains locally, binationally

Hiring challenges are also impacting supply chains globally. Companies reported a sharp decrease in the accessibility and reliability of their suppliers and vendors. Here, BRI fell from 54.7 in April to a categorical low of 26.5 in June. This corroborates the headlines regarding shortages in lumber and microchips, which has in turn stalled production of higher end goods and led to spikes in commodity prices and other item such as used cars. A lot of these supply chain disruptions are temporary in nature, directly linked to safety measures and restrictions associated with pandemic (this is why longer-term inflation expectations remain stable).

Ports and businesses across the country have experienced ongoing shortages of labor, containers, truck chassis, and more; shipping vessels have been forced to wait in harbors, in some cases for more than two weeks. This global traffic jam has impacted schedule reliability so profoundly it has forced companies to revisit the ways in which they manage risk. Many companies have moved from a just-in-time strategy to just-in-case. This means firms now keep additional inventory on hand, anything from raw materials to the final product. The lack of supply and rising costs have disproportionately impacted small and mid-market suppliers and buyers. This has resulted in direct capital investment from smaller buyers into smaller suppliers to stabilize supply chains and build necessary redundancies.

The pandemic-induced constraint on the movement of goods has only exacerbated trends from the past few years. Trade wars, changing consumer behavior, and e-commerce were already disrupting global supply chains, all of which has highlighted the strategic importance of supply chain management as well as the region’s bi-national assets. The Cali Baja Binational Mega Region is already vertically integrated in Manufacturing, and a warehousing boom in Otay Mesa is increasing capacity for goods coming via land and sea. Cali Baja is an ideal location for companies that want to move operations closer to home but maintain a binational advantage. Continued investment in trade infrastructure, such as our ports of entry and direct route service, will further cement Cali Baja as a binational innovation hub.

The return to office will be in a lab

Back in April, companies indicated a modest desire to increase their physical footprint upon returning to the office. However, companies appear to be less sure as the return approaches. In June, companies expressed plans for a net reduction of space, but a deeper dive into the responses reveals that it is demand for office space that is waning. In fact, there is increasing demand for commercial space—life sciences companies in need of laboratory space. This reflects the influx of investment and rapid hiring we are seeing in these industries, as they lead the fight against the global pandemic. Fortunately, there is nearly 10 million square feet of industrial and flex space across San Diego County currently available for lease or purchase that could potentially accommodate this demand. Current hot spots include Sorrento Valley, Vista, and Otay Mesa; Downtown San Diego is also building capacity rapidly.

The headline story is a positive one for San Diego’s economy, but sentiment is far from identical across business sizes and industries. For example, small companies with fewer than 50 workers logged BRI of 53, which is modestly in expansionary territory, while companies with 250 or more employees measured an index value of 63.7. This makes sense, because San Diego’s Leisure and Hospitality businesses tend to be smaller establishments and were the hardest hit during the pandemic. While companies are enthusiastic to get back to full capacity and add workers, it will likely take a few more months for supply chains and the labor market to normalize again. The pandemic is a generational disruption with widespread ramifications, accelerating several trends already underway, including how and where people are willing to work.

Stay tuned for more on San Diego’s changing business landscape. EDC will be back every other month with more trends and insights. For more data and analysis visit: sandiegobusiness.org/research.

Take the next survey here

This research is made possible by:

San Diego’s Changing Business Landscape: Turning the pandemic corner

Welcome to the second edition in EDC’s Changing Business Landscape Series, which will be published bi-monthly in the San Diego Business Journal and here on our blog. If you missed the first edition, read it here.

Surveying the changing business landscape in San Diego

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every facet of life, including how businesses operate. Companies in every industry are rapidly re-evaluating how they do business, changing the way they interact with customers, manage supply chains and where their employees are physically located. This has massive immediate and long-term implications for San Diego’s workforce and job composition, as well as regional land use decisions and infrastructure investment.

To identify evolving trends in local business needs and operations, ensuring their ability to grow and thrive in the region, EDC is surveying more than 200 companies in the region’s key industries on a rolling basis throughout 2021 to monitor and report shifts in their priorities and strategies. In addition, EDC constructed the San Diego Business Recovery Index (BRI)—a sentiment index to measure companies’ perceptions of current conditions, as well as expectations for the future across several factors such as business development, employment and commercial real estate needs. Review the BRI concept and methodology here.

These insights will help inform long-term economic development priorities around talent recruitment and retention, quality job creation and infrastructure development. Companies are surveyed on several topics, with varying emphases in each wave.

Here are three key findings from the second wave of surveying conducted in April 2021:

  1. The worst of the pandemic is behind us. Companies are very bullish about the next six to 12 months and, as a result, plan to accelerate hiring.
  1. San Diego’s innovation cluster is (mostly) booming. Life Sciences companies lead the way while Cyber and Aerospace firms are still working through pandemic-related challenges.
  1. Companies are seriously reevaluating their space needs. Smaller firms are looking to expand their footprint, while traditional Tech companies may be scaling down.

The worst is behind us

San Diego companies indicated that they think the worst of the pandemic has passed. With a BRI of 58.9 in April, regional firms noted that they plan to hire or rehire workers at a slightly faster pace than they have up to this point, while also expanding remote work capabilities going forward.

Last month’s index reading reflects bullish assessments of, both, present conditions (the present conditions subindex registered a value of 56.1) and expectations for the future (subindex of 65.4). Companies noted some lingering effects from a full year in lockdown, including difficulties with business development and job losses, and neutral to slightly negative feelings on remote work over the past year. Nonetheless, firms reported bright views on the current state of the regional economy and noted that San Diego businesses and key industries have adapted to the pandemic better that those in peer regions.

Regional companies were even more upbeat when it came to expectations for the future. All of the index’s expectations subindex values were north of 50, and companies overwhelmingly believe that the regional economy will have improved significantly in the next six months (subindex of 72.7) and even more so within the next 12 months (subindex of 86.2). This is important because many companies make decisions today based on their assessments of business conditions in the near future.

Most companies shared in the optimism, but to varying degrees. Small companies with fewer than 50 employees that were hardest hit during the pandemic held slightly dimmer, though still generally positive, views than their larger counterparts. In particular, smaller firms cited ongoing difficulties accessing new customers, managing suppliers and vendors, and hiring and retaining workers. Even so, assessments of current earnings trends were only slightly negative, and small firms held a sunny disposition when it comes to the current state of the San Diego economy and business climate.

Interestingly, however, companies with fewer than 50 workers had the highest level of optimism for the future across business size cohorts, which could signal an inflection point for the pace of hiring in the coming months. This bodes especially well for the jobs recovery heading into the second half of 2021, as 96 percent of San Diego’s businesses have fewer than 50 employees and small businesses have historically accounted for roughly half of all job growth.

San Diego’s innovation cluster is (mostly) booming

San Diego’s innovation cluster overwhelming expressed optimism entering 2021, as companies shifted toward meeting the demand for life-saving technologies, treatments and personal protective equipment leading to record venture capital investment and renewed job growth. However, a closer look reveals mixed results within the cluster. Industries like Cleantech, Software and Biomedical Device producers all held especially confident views (BRIs in the mid-60s), while Telecommunications, Cybersecurity and Aerospace each signaled ongoing challenges from the pandemic (BRIs ranging from 43 to 50).

Biotech and Biomedical Device manufactures hold strong expectations for the regional economy, with plans to increase their headcount and real estate footprint during the next year. In addition, they expect to increase their use of remote work over the same time frame. While this may seem contradictory, it reflects the modifications and enhancements that many companies are making to protect workers on the production floor, as well as those necessary to attract workers back into the office. Workers want to feel safe once back on company property and they also want to maintain the flexibility that working remotely has provided. To accommodate these needs, employers are preparing for a flexible or hybrid workplace once reopen. In addition, many companies are reconfiguring and even seeking new space to keep workers spread out, adapting space to be more comfortable in a post-pandemic environment. This includes ‘hoteling’ and ‘neighborhooding’ models to help reduce the flow of people and simultaneously allow teams to collaborate in person. Companies are preparing for a gradual return to the office to give workers adequate time to warm up to pre-pandemic routines. More on that below.

While Telecommunications and Cybersecurity firms all share this optimistic regional economic outlook with their Life Sciences peers, these industries are much more subdued about their own expansion plans for the next year. On net, they see their needs for space as unchanged, with some modest reductions in hiring compared to typical years. This reflects the challenges these industries have faced during the pandemic, namely with respect to increased difficulty with sales, hiring and, somewhat surprisingly, inefficiencies from remote work. Aerospace has not yet recovered from the initial impacts of the pandemic, still reeling from significant hits to both sales and employment, as well as disruptions in their supply chains from lockdowns and restricted international travel and transportation.

Smaller firms are looking to add space

After more than a year of implementing remote work and reduced onsite staffing, companies are beginning to plan for a return to the office. However, how much space awaits those returning to the office will vary by industry as well as firm size.

It is small- and medium-sized firms that are looking to expand their commercial real estate footprint over the next year rather than larger firms. In fact, the proportion of firms surveyed that expect to increase space by 10 percent or more of their current square footage is nearly double that of those planning to reduce their current space by 10 percent or more (16 percent to 8.4 percent, respectively). However, when you factor in the size of each company, those planning significant real estate growth represent only three percent of the jobs compared to 13 percent of jobs for those looking to reduce space significantly (companies surveyed collectively employ nearly 200,000 workers).

When we look at the innovation companies, we see some stark differences between traditional Technology and Biotechnology industries. Eight percent of respondents representing 22 percent of jobs plan to reduce their space by more than 10 percent—mostly in the Telecommunications industry. However, nearly 26 percent of respondents representing 41 percent jobs expect to add modest amounts of space less than 10 percent of their current footprint. Here many respondents are in the Biomedical Device and Biotech industries and likely in need of additional production or lab space.

Understanding these evolving and distinct trends is important because San Diego’s innovation cluster is leading the region out of this pandemic-driven economic downturn, just as it has in each past downturn. Each job added in the innovation cluster supports another two jobs elsewhere in the economy. Yet, these innovation companies do not necessarily need to be physically located in San Diego in order to operate. Making sure these companies have the infrastructure and access to talent that they need to flourish is critical to our region’s prosperity.

Stay tuned for more on San Diego’s changing business landscape. EDC will be back every other month with more trends and insights. For more data and analysis visit: sandiegobusiness.org/research.

Take the next survey here

This research is made possible by:

Release: San Diego Global Trade and Investment Strategy serves to drive recovery, resilience

World Trade Center San Diego updates 2015 regional plan amid pandemic

Today, alongside Congressman Scott Peters, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and key regional business leaders and in partnership with the Center for Commerce and Diplomacy at UC San Diego, World Trade Center San Diego (WTCSD) released its “Go Global 2025: San Diego’s Global Trade and Investment Initiative.” This regional strategic plan serves as the update to the inaugural strategy launched in 2015 and focuses on global engagement as an engine for recovery and resilience.

Available on web at goglobal2025.wtcsd.org, the strategic plan also includes an overview of San Diego’s economic and policy landscape, an interactive foreign investment map, perspectives from executives of global firms and more.

THE CASE FOR GLOBAL ENGAGEMENT

As the world collectively battles a pandemic and navigates resulting economic shutdowns, the global economy faces some of the most significant disruptions in a generation. Nations and cities have begun to look inward to focus on domestic needs including healthcare, education, infrastructure, equity and job creation. And yet, if this year has taught us anything, it is that we are a global society that is inextricably connected.

On the road to recovery, it is increasingly important for leaders at the metro level to articulate a compelling, data-driven vision of our place within the global economy and collaboratively execute a strategy that keeps us ahead of the curve.

“San Diego is filled with world-class innovation and smart people solving global problems. Now is the time for our big, binational City to show up on the world stage to help us reach our goals faster,” said Mayor Todd Gloria. “As Mayor, I want to tell that story in a way that opens doors and enables more investment, jobs and opportunities for San Diegans and moves our city forward.”

While San Diego exports $22 billion in goods annually, the region is also a top 10 services exporter among U.S. metros. The region’s competitive advantage is in professional, scientific, and technical services, like research and development, cybersecurity, and engineering and software. These industries also capture the highest concentration of foreign direct investment (FDI) via mergers and acquisitions and venture capital investment. In fact, San Diego life sciences firms captured nearly three-quarters of the estimated $3 billion in foreign investment injected into the regional economy last year.

“As the “next normal” takes shape, San Diego needs to continue to prepare for where the economy is going by focusing on our most globally competitive industries. However, we need to be intentional about creating quality jobs at every skill level within those industries, and enabling San Diegans with the tools they need to fill those jobs,” said Nikia Clarke, Executive Director, WTCSD. “This will ensure that our businesses and innovators continue to export life-changing technology, and it will also make all our communities more resilient to future shocks.”

A STRATEGIC PLAN

In order to drive quality job growth through expanding foreign investment and exports, deepen economic ties to strategic markets, and enhance the region’s reputation to drive competitiveness, WTCSD proposes five key strategies for the San Diego region:

  1. Lead with the region’s most competitive industries. Most growth and job creation will come from innovation–based industries.
  1. Leverage binational assets to attract foreign investment. Capture investment along the entire value chain in priority industries.
  1. Prioritize market access for small businesses. Small businesses create the most jobs but face higher barriers to internationalization.
  1. Invest in critical infrastructure that enables global commerce. Modernize, maintain and expand service through international ports of entry.
  1. Enhance San Diego’s global identity and reputation for innovation. Deepen public-private partnerships on focused international activity.

“The digital paradigm shift we’ve seen is just one of the many ways the global marketplace—and in turn, our business—has been revolutionized by the pandemic. This is why a regional strategic plan like the one WTCSD has outlined matters: there are real businesses, real people, real jobs who require the resilience that global connection provides,” said Ken Behan, VP of Sales and Marketing, SYSTRAN.

“The Port of San Diego is a vital economic engine for the region with San Diego Bay and the surrounding waterfront at the heart of it all. While it has been a difficult and uncertain year for us and many of our bayfront businesses, there are so many legacy-making decisions ahead. This strategy presents an opportunity for us to align not only in word, but in action. The impacts could be transformational,” said Commissioner Jennifer LeSar, Port of San Diego Board of Port Commissioners.

The report was produced by WTCSD, with support by the Center for Commerce and Diplomacy at UC San Diego and sponsored by Illumina. It was unveiled today at a community event alongside Congressman Scott Peters; San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria; Dr. Renee Bowen, Director, Center for Commerce and Diplomacy, UC San Diego; Garry Ridge, Chairman of the Board & CEO, WD-40; Kathleen Lynch, Vice President, Global Government Affairs & Public Policy, Illumina; Maritza Diaz, CEO, iTjuana; and Dr. Vivek Lall, Chief Executive, General Atomics Global.

ABOUT WTCSD
Founded in 1994 by the City of San Diego, Port of San Diego, and San Diego International Airport, World Trade Center San Diego (WTCSD) operates as an affiliate of San Diego Regional EDC. WTCSD works to further San Diego’s global competitiveness by building an export pipeline, attracting and retaining foreign investment and increasing San Diego’s global profile abroad. sandiegobusiness.org/wtcsd

Read the full strategy and report here