It Looks Like Silicon Valley is Doing Better Preparing People for STEM Careers

By John Melville

While in-migration remains a critical source of experienced STEM talent for Silicon Valley, the attainment of STEM degrees locally is also growing in importance.  Preparing people locally for Silicon Valley STEM jobs is not only important for the regional innovation economy, it opens the door for local residents to participate in technical careers with good and growing wages.  And, it attracts talented students outside the region, who may become part of our STEM workforce in the future.

So, how are we doing preparing people locally to join Silicon Valley’s innovation economy?

Based on provisional data that has just become available from the National Center on Educational Statistics, it appears that our region is doing much better than we did just a few years ago.  Moreover, during the 2015-2016 period, our growth rate for local STEM degrees awarded was the highest among the comparison regions.

As recently as the 2011-2012 period, 6,283 STEM degrees (bachelors, masters, and doctorates) were awarded by Silicon Valley institutions.  By the 2015-2016 period, this number had jumped to 8,265—an increase of almost 32% over four years.  And, the rate of growth has accelerated considerably—from an annual increase of 4.6% in 2013-2014 to 12% in 2014-STEM Table - 9.282015 to 16% in 2015-2016.

This 16% growth figure, if confirmed by final data to be released at the end of the year, will be the highest among the comparison regions of Austin, Boston, New York, Seattle, and Southern California (see chart below).  As recently as 2013-2014, our growth rate was the lowest among these comparison regions.

Big regions with many higher education institutions like New York and Southern California are naturally large producers of STEM degrees—with both awarding more than 28,000 of these credentials in 2015-2016.  Boston is next at 14,491, with Silicon Valley at 8,265 ahead of both Seattle (5,658) and Austin (5,628).

While Austin produces the fewest number of STEM degrees among the comparison regions, on a per capita basis, it trails only Boston, with Silicon Valley possessing the third highest per capita rate of STEM degree production among the comparison regions.

STEM Chart - 9.28There are many reasons for the Valley’s improving performance on STEM degree production.  Existing institutions have grown their STEM offerings and focused more on supporting students to degree completion.  Institutions based elsewhere have entered the region with new STEM degree programs.  With a booming innovation economy, there is growing interest by local youth and adults to pursue STEM degree as well as greater numbers of students coming to the Valley from other regions.  There are also growing efforts in the K-12 system and community colleges to put students on STEM education pathways that lead to bachelors’ degrees and beyond, including increased investment in growing homegrown talent from companies supporting local STEM programs (e.g., Genentech, Microsoft, and others).

Let us know what you think might be the reasons for this growth and what our region needs to do to sustain our success.  And, be sure to stay tuned for updated STEM data and other innovation indicator updates early next year.

John Melville is Co-CEO of Collaborative Economics.

On-Boarding and the College-Going Mindset: Promising Directions for Community Colleges

By Kathleen Rose

Last Spring, Gavilan College completed a comprehensive Educational Master Plan to focus on the development of an educational blueprint for the college for the next ten years, and to be the basis for a facilities plan to the year 2023. Our consultants looked at an assessment of the community and labor market needs for our 2700 square mile district, including population projections for Santa Clara and San Benito counties.  Central to the study was the improvement of on-boarding services for our feeder high schools and seeking ways to better prepare students to transfer to four year institutions with an emphasis on transfer pathways. Our stakeholder groups on campus held many discussions about what the current gaps were, what was missing with our current outreach services, and what we could do differently to remind high school students in our service area that Gavilan was an excellent choice to begin an education journey toward transfer or in career technical education. We needed to break the community out of the image that the community college was “just” an extension of high school, instead of a versatile open access entry point for learning.  In other words, we needed to demonstrate a new definition of a “college-going mindset” with our high school feeder schools.

It was very obvious to me as the new Superintendent/President that this new definition needed to begin with me, so last spring we decided to do a road show and visit the main feeder schools in our district.  We invited parents and students to come and learn more about Gavilan, meet our faculty and counselors, and participate in small round table discussions about applying for college and financial aid, and choosing a major. Students from Gavilan joined us to share their academic and athletic experiences, and I went from table to table and introduced myself to the parents and students who attended.  It was a very successful, grass roots effort that was combined with additional on-boarding activities throughout the year, including:

  • meetings with high school partners to review the recruitment cycle, changes in policies or processes, support services and special programs.
  • application, assessment, financial aid, and pre-orientation sessions conducted at all feeder and alternative schools in the district.
  • work with disability support staff at the high schools to connect their students with our AEC program.
  • conduct college tours, host bus trips to campus, and hold the annual Transfer Day and Career Day on Campus.
  • host “Super Saturday”, an accelerated matriculation event for parents and students who have not enrolled in late spring after other colleges have already admitted their students.
  • follow up with students who have not fully completed enrollment steps of their financial aid documents to connect students to additional services.

California Community Colleges have made significant advancements in the past five years in the area of student success, transfer and career technical education.  Yet more remains to be done to accelerate the pace of improvement and attract high school students to our campuses. When we take the time to design and decide the focus of initiatives and outreach efforts with the student in mind, students benefit from a seamless transition from one educational system to another with greater support to achieve their educational goals.


Dr. Kathleen Rose is President of Gavilan College in Gilroy, CA.

Why Kids Need Early STEM and Early Math in Particular

By Ted Lempert

Research shows that children’s early knowledge of math strongly predicts their later success in math, even into high school, and that persistent problems with math is the best predictor of failing to graduate from high school or enter college. More surprising is that early math also predicts later reading achievement, even better than early reading skills. In fact, doing more math in preschool increases oral language abilities when measured during the following school year. Given the importance of math to academic success, it’s clear that all children need a robust knowledge of math in their earliest years.

Unfortunately, one needs only to look at the data to see that we’re not doing enough to help our kids succeed in math. In 2015, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) found that only 29 percent of California’s 4th graders performed at or above proficient in math, compared to 39 percent nationally. Moreover, our students made virtually no improvement between 2013 and 2015. Alarmingly, we seem to be headed in the wrong direction. When we look at California’s 8th graders, according to NAEP, only 27 percent performed at or above proficient in math, compared to 32 percent nationally. The disparities are even greater for kids of color. The gap in math proficiency between Caucasian and African-American 4th graders was 23 points and grew to 31 points by the 8th grade.

The 2017 Silicon Valley Competitiveness and Innovation Project report reaffirms the NAEP data, as well as the research documenting the importance of math. As the report states, 8th grade math proficiency is an important predictor for college preparedness and professional opportunities. Yet, even in the Silicon Valley, only 53 percent of 8th graders met or exceeded the state standards for math proficiency in 2016. While this is better than the state as a whole, when one looks at the performance of African-American and Latino 8th graders in the Silicon Valley, only 24 percent and 25 percent, respectively, met or exceeded the state standards for math proficiency.

What can we do about this?

We need to raise the profile and understanding among decision makers of the importance of early math, and early STEM education more broadly, through advocacy and outreach. We need to make the case that investing in early math and early STEM education pays off in terms later math achievement and academic success.

Children Now has posited that one of the central goals of any national or state education policy agenda must be to provide more students, especially those from underrepresented or disadvantaged groups, access to high-quality STEM education, and math in particular, as early in their studies as possible. More specifically, we should promote early learning and development within the local planning and budgeting dialogues required by the Local Control Funding Formula and Local Control Accountability Plans. We need to provide more resources for teacher training and professional development so our teachers are well prepared in both content and pedagogy to provide high-quality math and STEM instruction in their classrooms. And, we need to promote improved pathways for parents’ and families’ involvement and engagement in their children’s early education.


Ted Lempert is the President of Children Now, a nonpartisan umbrella research, policy development, and advocacy organization dedicated to promoting children’s health, education and well-being in California. Children Now also leads The Children’s Movement of California, a grassroots network of more than 2,000 business, education, parent, civil rights, faith, and community-based organizations working together to make children a top priority in public policy. Learn more at

Back to School — But Where is the Teacher?

By Margaret Daoud-Gray

Meeting your teacher on the first day should be a given for our students. This year, too many students will enter their classroom with rotating substitute teachers or instructors on emergency credentials. This will be more common in low-income school districts, STEM fields, and special education classes. Last year, approximately 75% of school districts reported a shortage of qualified teachers. As of August 11th, 2017, the districts of San Francisco Unified, Oakland Unified, and Franklin-McKinley reported 61, 50, and 31 open positions respectively. This is because the current supply of teachers in California is at a 12-year low.

At the Silicon Valley Leadership Education Policy Summit on August 10th, we heard from experts throughout the day about the importance of recruiting and retaining strong teachers. Dr. Jeff Duncan-Andrade launched the conference with a compelling discussion around educational equity, emphasizing that teacher quality is the most important factor in student achievement. Assemblymember Tony Thurmond and Marshall Tuck, two candidates for State Superintendent of Schools, agreed that the shortage must be addressed through short-term and long-term efforts. Silicon Valley districts face additional challenges due to housing costs that are prohibitive on a teacher’s salary. Stephen McMahon, Deputy Superintendent of San Jose Unified School District, recognized that staff turnover is driven by teachers moving to work in more affordable regions.

The legislature clearly understands the urgency in addressing the shortage and introduced a number of bills to fund teacher recruitment and training. However, Governor Brown’s budget proposal included limited funding; ultimately, the state appropriated $30 million and redirected $11 million federal Title II dollars towards teacher recruitment and training.

Expect Legislators to push for further funding to address the shortage in 2018, and for the shortage to receive more attention through campaigns for both State Superintendent and Governor. Every student deserves to start school with an effective teacher greeting them at the door on the first day of school and the state must act to address this growing problem.

Margaret Daoud-Gray is Director of Education Policy at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group

How poverty and politics affect the Valley’s housing crisis

This article appeared in the Silicon Valley Business Journal on August 3, 2017

Guest opinion: How poverty and politics affect the Valley’s housing crisis

By Brian Brennan and Erica Wood

For every ten new jobs created in Silicon Valley between 2010 and 2015, we built just one new housing unit.

That is the core of the Bay Area’s housing problem, and it goes a long way to explaining why, as documented in a recent report by our two organizations, Silicon Valley’s median housing price in 2015 was $935,000, while in competitor regions like Seattle and Austin it was $380,000 and $249,000, respectively.

We cannot expect the housing market to moderate until we build more housing at all income levels.  To do that, we need robust action on two fronts:  poverty and politics.

First, we need to dedicate public funds to support housing for the neediest in our region.  The housing crunch affects everyone, but government has a particular role with respect to our low-income residents.  Healthy communities have space for people at all income levels, but the cost of land in the Bay Area means stand-alone low-income housing rarely pencils out.   That is why we need affordable housing funding measures like Senator Toni Atkins’ SB 2, which would establish a permanent funding source of affordable housing, and bond measures such as that proposed by Senator Jim Beall’s SB 3.

Perhaps counter-intuitively, however, addressing the housing needs of the poor means building housing for all income levels.  The shortage of middle- and upper middle-income housing leads to gentrification: buyers at those levels look in markets that used to be for lower middle- and low-income residents.  Thus, not only are we not building enough new housing for low-income residents, but the supply that we already have is being squeezed by inadequate new housing at other income levels.

Building more housing means addressing a second issue:  housing politics.  While new housing is in the interests of the entire region, it makes sense for individual cities to wait for their neighbor cities to bear the costs of building it.  The local politics are all the more challenging because our housing crisis is less of a crisis for those who already own a home.  They might want their kids to live nearby, or be concerned about the region’s economic vitality or the well-being of friends or coworkers – but many homeowners are counting on the steady increase of housing prices as their nest egg.   We don’t talk about this much, but it adds to the complexity of housing politics, and helps explain the opposition to new housing in a region that so clearly needs it.

Part of the answer lies in re-thinking the way we make decisions about housing.  Senator Scott Wiener is making a courageous effort to move the needle with SB 35, which would prevent those local governments not building their share of housing from rejecting new housing projects that have gone through the proper environmental review, community engagement and permitting processes.  We agree with Senator Wiener: “Local control is about how a community achieves its housing goals, not whether it achieves those goals.”

When a region builds just one new housing unit for every ten new jobs, it’s no surprise that housing prices skyrocket.  That is supply and demand.  To address it, we need to focus public dollars on low-income housing while putting in place political structures that are conducive to new housing at all income levels.

Erica Wood is Chief Community Impact Officer at Silicon Valley Community Foundation.  Dr. Brian Brennan is Senior Vice President at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.  They wrote this piece for the Business Journal.

Computer Science Education: No Time to Wait

By Paul Escobar

Our society is on the cusp of perhaps the most dramatic shift in modern history.  The digitalization of our society and economy—our greater reliance on artificial intelligence, the use of big data and the ubiquity of computers—promises to radically reshape how we live, work and play.  To remain economically competitive and foster a more inclusive society, we must ensure that everyone is prepared for and can be active contributors to this future.  Crucial to this is widespread access to a robust K-12 computer science education.

Currently only about 25 percent of Californian schools offer any CS courses to their students.  In 2015, the Sacramento Bee writes, of the roughly 2 million public high school students in the state, only 35,000 students were enrolled in computer programming or CS courses.  This disparity in education contributes to disparities in the workplace.  As the Silicon Valley Business Journal reported in March, the underrepresentation in the Valley’s tech workforce of women and minority populations is striking: only 2 percent are African American, 3 percent Latinx and 24 percent women.

Momentum is building, however, and equity of access expanding.  With the introduction of the AP CS Principles exam this year, the College Board experienced the largest exam launch in history.  The number of students taking AP CS exams doubled nationwide between 2016 and 2017 (54,379 and 111,262, respectively).  Most heartening, this year compared to 2016, the number of female and underrepresented minority test takers increased their participation by a striking 135 percent and 170 percent respectively.  In addition, though California is not currently among the only 8 states that have developed rigorous K-12 CS standards, our state is taking an important step to join their ranks with the convening this September of the Computer Science Standards Advisory Committee.

Accessible, robust K-12 CS is not only a moral and social obligation; it is an economic and national imperative.  Providing equitable access to computing resources and education will allow us to substantively expand and diversify the pool of qualified STEM workers, a vital piece to filling the over 200,000 open cybersecurity jobs and the projected shortfall by 2022 of 1.3 million qualified computational workers.  Given that STEM jobs are the number one source of all new wages in the U.S. as well as the growing reliance on computers in all sectors, accessible CS education could ultimately raise more people of all backgrounds and beliefs into a renewed middle class.  The alternative is to risk American economic competitiveness and stifle innovation.

While the state moves to develop standards, there is still much that the rest of us can do to promote access to K-12 CS education in our local districts.  Parents, teachers, administrators and nonprofit partners can all be a catalyst for a budding new CS initiative or program on at a school site or within a district.  For some ideas as to how you can do this, a great place to start is’s advocacy page.

Paul Escobar is Director of Policy and Education Programs for the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.


In Silicon Valley, the Jobs Keep Coming

California’s job figures for June were released today, and Silicon Valley again was half the story.

The Silicon Valley half was a total of nearly 14,000 new jobs across just four counties:  San Benito, Santa Clara, San Mateo and San Francisco.  Our region is a large part of the reason that the state’s unemployment rate remained unchanged at 4.9 percent — the lowest rate since 2000.  It continues a trend that saw jobs in Silicon Valley increase 24.5 percent between 2010 and 2015.

Yet, despite Silicon Valley’s job growth, California had a net job loss in June, and therein lies the other half of a familiar story:   Much of the state continues to struggle economically.  This is the “Two Californias” dynamic that the California Business Roundtable honed in on some years ago:  a divide that runs east-west rather than north-south, with a wealthy coast and depressed inland regions.   The great challenge for our state legislators:  How are we to think about economic development policies in a state that has both some of the richest and some of the poorest counties in the country?

Why Do We Have a Housing Crisis? This is Why….

SV@Home highlights exactly exactly the dynamic that drives Silicon Valley’s ongoing housing crisis:  A town that has met just 15 percent of its new housing allocation denies a properly permitted and reviewed project that conformed with all city planning documents.   A court has now forced the Town Council to reconsider, but the folks who are desperately scouring the Valley for a place to live won’t have a vote when they meet on the issue.

Democracy means having a voice in matters that affect your community.  A city or town is clearly a meaningful political community in matters of land use, but it is not the only relevant political community.  The impacts of housing do not end at the town’s edge.   In this particular case, the Los Gatos Town Council’s decision will be making a decision that impacts impacts Campbell, San Jose, and a much broader region.  We need to find the right way to see that the region has a greater voice on projects with regional impact.

Senator Scott Wiener’s SB 35 aims to address situations just like this one.  Here’s hoping it makes it to the Governor’s desk, and leaves with a signature.

Mid-Year Progress Report 2017 – Part III

With the last of our three mid-year progress report blogs, we’re looking ahead to California’s legislative home stretch.  The state legislature closes its 2017 year on September 15th, and we’ve got our eye on a number of bills that are making their way through the process.   The issues?  Housing, housing, and housing.   That’s no surprise, given that Silicon Valley produced only about one new housing unit for each 10 jobs created between 2010 and 2015.

If you think we need bold and thoughtful proposals to meet the housing challenges facing Silicon Valley and California, we hope you’ll call your state legislators and voice your support for these bills:

Senate Bill 35 (@Scott_Weiner):   This legislation by Senator Weiner is as bold as they come – so bold that a similar measure proposal by the Governor died last year in the face of considerable opposition.  Senator Weiner has worked hard to construct a broader coalition to back this new version, which would streamline the process of approving new housing.

At its core, SB 35 addresses the collective action problem that characterizes California housing policy:  New housing stock is critical for a region, but it is easier for individual cities to wait for their neighbors to do the hard work of building new housing and providing the accompanying services.   It is a system that stymies even the most forward-thinking local leaders in the Valley who understand the need for new housing.  To address this problem, SB 35 would shift some decision-making authority away from local governments who have failed to meet their regional housing allocation requirements.

SB 2 (@SenToniAtkins):  While builders, regions and local communities will drive creation of most of the new housing we need in California, state funds for affordable housing are critical.  Bonds have provided important funding in recent years – and proposals like SB 3 below still have a role to play – but the permanent, stable source of affordable housing funds that would be provided by Senator Atkins’ SB 2 will allow for long-term planning at lower cost.  That’s just good policy.

SB 3 (@Jimbealljr):  State funding for affordable housing is an important tool for addressing California’s housing needs.  This legislation – from Silicon Valley’s own Senator Jim Beall – would place a $3B housing bond on the California’s 2018 General Election ballot, as funding from previous bonds in 2002 and 2006 dwindles.

AB 1505 (@AsmRichardBloom):  A healthy community includes housing for residents at a broad range of income levels.   Assm. Bloom’s AB 1505 helps the cause, by allowing (but not requiring) local jurisdictions to put in place inclusionary renters housing ordinances, which in 2009 had been disallowed by the courts in Palmer vs. City of Los Angeles.

There is no silver bullet to the housing crisis, but these bills would move us in the right direction.  If you’d like to learn more about the housing challenge in California, check out the California Legislative Analyst’s report on the topic here.

Mid-Year Progress Report 2017 – Part II

Any discussion of Silicon Valley’s health must have the competition for talent at its core.  From a policy perspective, talent is a three-legged stool:  immigration from abroad, migration from other parts of the U.S., and local Bay Area talent.

Few expected 2017 to be a year of thoughtful pro-growth immigration policy.  Of course, it turns out folks in Washington had quite a few thoughts about immigration.  They have left Silicon Valley and other globally networked U.S. metro areas fighting a series of rear-guard battles against clumsy, blunt-force bans.

Those battles will continue, and need to be fought.  But there is a lot that we can do on other fronts.  In the competition for American talent — a second leg of the stool — we continue to lag behind key competitor regions like Seattle and Austin.  And it’s not close.  In 2015, we saw another net domestic out-migration from Silicon Valley, while those other regions added thousands of Americans from other parts of the country.

The cost of housing is a major driver in this trend, of course.  Here again, the comparisons with Austin and Seattle over the 2010-2015 time period are grim.  Yet the latest available housing data from California’s Department of Finance show positive movement more recently in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties, and in San Francisco.  In each of these cases, the gap between population growth and housing growth narrowed.  That shift was driven more by reduced population growth than new housing, but we know that building housing is tough.  Credit is due to the local officials making hard decisions to increase our housing stock.  Just keep it up.

With respect to the third leg of that talent stool – Silicon Valley’s own local education systems – sweeping policy progress is hard to come by.  When wins come, they are often district by district, or system by system. Here’s one:  An initial meeting between leaders of ten of Silicon Valley’s community colleges and executives from some of the Valley’s largest tech employers earlier this month shows promise for closing the vexing gap between employers and educators.  IBM sees such promise in community colleges that they have announced of an expansion of its partnerships with community colleges across the country to train tech workers.  Are we seeing a trend?

In the third of our three mid-year reports, we’ll take a look at some legislation that we think can move the needle between now and the end of the end of California’s 2017 legislative year in September.