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Report: San Antonio Ranks Last In Diversity Of Tech Workforce

There have been about 12 instances of foreign hackers breaking into U.S. energy systems.
Image via Flickr/Rachel Johnson (CC BY-ND 2.0)
Image Via Flickr/Rachel Johnson (CC BY-ND 2.0)
There have been about 12 instances of foreign hackers breaking into U.S. energy systems.

San Antonio has the least diverse technology workforce of the top 50 markets measured by the commercial real estate organization CBRE (Coldwell Banker Richard Ellis).

The results are based on racial makeup of the total office workforce versus those working in Technology based on labor statistics. San Antonio was joined on the least diverse list by Los Angeles/Orange County, Austin and San Francisco. Some of the most diverse markets were Pittsburgh and Charlotte, North Carolina.

The numbers stand in stark contrast to the demographics of the community which is 64% Hispanic/Latino, according to the census. That same data shows that only 26% of the community age 25 or up has a college degree, which Mike Flores — Chancellor of Alamo Community Colleges — agreed could be one reason.

Southwest ISD Welcomes First Class To CAST STEM High School
Camille Phillips | Texas Public Radio
CAST High Schools target in demand skills to put students in technology and other fields.

“I think the more talent that we can pursue as an education entity in IT or other sectors is key,” said Flores. “And moving our baccalaureate population up from 25% or 26% to 30%, 35%, 40% is also critical.”

Critical, he said, for the community to not only unlock social mobility but to create labor workforce that would entice employers to locate and expand here. Educational attainment likely is just one piece of the puzzle.

“Have we done enough to reach out to certain groups in town, and make it clear why opportunities in tech are beneficial?” asked David Heard, executive director of the local technology advocacy organization Tech Bloc.

For decades the technology sector which encompasses a number of jobs fields including things like cyber security and software development has been predominantly white and predominantly male. San Antonio is no different and not seeing members of the family in the industry means community stakeholders have to try harder, Heard said.

Efforts to increase the ranks of the tech students have ramped up the past five years. The Charles Butt Foundation funded the first Centers for Applied Science and Technology downtown with support from Tech Bloc and H-E-B. Another opened at Palo Alto College along with other technology-based high schools.

Flores who was at Palo Alto College at the time said it could still be years before the community benefits from those students. He said that’s in part why they launched their Alamo Promise program— a free-tuition program — for students at 25 area high schools.

“When we launched Alamo promise, we saw that we were not producing enough local talent for high wage, high demand fields like IT. And so that's why we launched it,” said Flores.

San Antonio residents voted last year to put more than $150 million in sales tax to job training that includes IT jobs. The program known as Ready to Work SA is supposed to target higher-paying job placements.

The question for some is will there be enough technology jobs for those workers, students and graduates. San Antonio already ranked high in graduating members of underrepresented groups in technology degrees and the city already graduated more students in the past five years (2,890) than it had jobs for, according to the report.

“It just shows that we have work to do on both sides of the equation, we aren't graduating enough tech talent. And in commensurate fashion, we aren't creating enough tech employment,” said Heard.

This was the first time in its nine years that CBRE charted industry diversity. The report is often seen as a weather vane for talent trends. San Antonio again found itself at the bottom of the list, ranked 45 of 50.

The city boasted a 9.4% growth and has added a few thousand in the last three years to 33,000 workers. This doesn’t include government workers on Top Secret cyber security positions. San Antonio is home of the 16th Air Force wing, one of the largest installations for cybersecurity in that branch. Local tech leaders estimate 10-12% more workers than the report credited the city with.

San Antonio ranked last in Texas cities on the top 50 with Austin (No. 7), Dallas (No. 13) and Houston (No. 39) all coming before it. The growth in sister cities has been the talk of local tech circles. All of them seem to be accelerating their growth with additional expansions and headquarters relocating to them, while San Antonio stays at the same growth rate it’s had for years.

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Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org