San Diego’s got talent


To stay competitive, you need to have talent. That’s not just sage advice for some would-be performer auditioning for a plum role. It is a truism that applies to both companies and regions as they work to remain competitive in the global marketplace.

“Across the country, many economic development agencies and policy makers are focused on attracting companies to their regions. The research tells us that economic developers should be focused on attracting talent instead,” said Mary Walshok, dean of UC San Diego Extension.

The good news is that San Diego has talent in abundance. In its recent study “Talent: Where San Diego Stands,” the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation found that the region added more than 72,000 degree holders in 2014 alone, which was more than any other similar metro area. In addition, San Diego ranked second in the growth of degree-holding millennials when compared to such peer metros as Austin, Denver, San Francisco and San Jose.

Mark Cafferty, president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, said studies aren’t just cause for civic pride but also provide important insights for both companies and employees alike.

One key takeaway: “High school isn’t going to be enough to compete in San Diego,” he said.

This is especially true in San Diego’s innovation economy, which employs highly skilled workers in scientific, engineering and technology sectors. Cafferty said those who are looking to stay in San Diego need to take a close look at those industries as they navigate their career paths.

“Whether you are getting a law degree or becoming an accountant, you need to realize the opportunities in these fields and understand how to position yourself in these sectors even if you are not a scientist or an engineer,” he said.

The reward is not just employment but also well-paid employment. The study found that San Diego ranked first among its peer cities in the concentration of scientific research and development firms and ranked second in average annual pay for these R&D employees.

Cafferty said while San Diego is often criticized for not having enough job opportunities for those in the innovation sector, the study clearly dispelled the long-held myth that job seekers don’t have enough work options to ensure career mobility.

“We often hear about the ‘second job problem,’ but this study shows that workers in San Diego have options,” he said. “There are numerous startups and mid-sized firms hiring – and San Diego is adding more every day.”

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