We are well aware that software is key to the thriving tech industry, but some may not realize that software literacy is also quickly becoming a foundational skillset for many non-tech industries and job functions as well. Programming skills are helping scientists, marketers, bankers and even farmers become more effective and efficient at their jobs. And revolutionary industries such as autonomous vehicles, robotics and agtech are also reliant on experts writing computer code to interpret sensor data and control their machines.
As a result, both venture-funded startups and tech giants with deep pockets are driving up ever-increasing demand for limited software talent across the country. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that there will be 1.4 million computer-science-related jobs available this year and only 400,000 computer science graduates with the skills to apply for those jobs. And according to “CB Insights,” lack of well-trained tech talent is one of the major reasons that startups fail. No wonder coders are commanding top salaries, with some Bay Area tech firms now paying more than half a million dollars annually for elite software developers.
High-paying tech jobs have largely passed over Central Valley cities like Modesto and Stockton, with most Bay Area companies opting to expand elsewhere, taking thousands of California tech jobs out of state. However, some Central Valley companies are looking to change that. Along with Sacramento’s many tech initiatives and a major tech hub growing in Fresno, Bay Valley Tech has established a thriving tech ecosystem in the Stockton/Modesto area and is on track to train 1,000 new software developers over the next few years. Growing the Central Valley’s software development workforce will produce a quadruple win for local residents and local companies, as well as Bay Area companies and Bay Area tech workers.
Today, the Central Valley lacks a tech-experienced workforce and is unable to attract higher-paying employers, while the Bay Area’s concentration of tech talent continues to draw top companies such as Microsoft, Alibaba and Walmart’s software development expansion offices into the region. Since the Bay Area has created one million new jobs since the 2008 recession, there are now so many tech-related jobs in Silicon Valley and San Francisco that it is creating an affordable housing and traffic crisis there. In a region bound geographically by water to the west, and hills and anti-growth regulation to the north, south and east, many long-time residents are beginning to resent tech workers for driving up housing costs and creating congestion in their communities. With no answer in sight, many are already leaving the Bay Area. Even more alarming, according to a Silicon Valley Leadership Group poll conducted last year, 44 percent of respondents said they were likely to move away from the Bay Area within a few years, indicating housing costs and traffic as key factors driving the exodus. Bay Area investors and executives are gravely concerned about the brain drain, so much that they are spending billions to build tens of thousands of new affordable housing units for their tech workers.
A growing coalition of Northern California organizations are working toward an alternate, more cost-effective solution that will create immense economic impact for the Central Valley. Namely, expanding tech education initiatives like Geekwise Academy in Fresno and our Bay Valley Tech free code academy in Modesto and Stockton. The Central Valley’s 6.5 million residents outnumber those of 30 states in the U.S., and represent an untapped new market, as well as a huge new labor force for Bay Area tech companies. Building a large new tech workforce in our region, which includes Modesto, Stockton, Tracy, Sacramento and Fresno, will encourage large Bay Area tech companies to expand into the area, enabling their tech workers to access Central Valley’s plentiful, affordable housing inventory and lower cost of living.
In fact, thousands of new software developers have already been trained in the Central Valley and outside tech firms are paying attention. Companies such as Tyler Technologies, Varsity Technologies and Oportun (a venture-funded fin-tech company that recently held its IPO on Nasdaq) have all opened offices in Modesto and are benefiting from the region’s growing tech talent base. We are confident that as the Central Valley’s tech education capabilities expand, many more Bay Area tech companies will bring their high-paying jobs into the region. The future is bright indeed for the Central Valley.
As president of Bay Valley Tech, Phillip Lan oversees both the fast-growing code academy, which provides free and low-cost tech training to Central Valley and East Bay residents, as well as the ValleyWorx co-working space, a Modesto-based tech hub that supports local entrepreneurs. A strong believer in the power of tech communities as a force to lift entire regions out of poverty, Lan is a key driver in Bay Valley Tech’s numerous initiatives to support Central Valley hackathons, software meetups, Women Techmakers, high school coding programs and the AgTech Summit.
Prior to Bay Valley Tech, Lan led the digital marketing team at E&J Gallo Winery and held marketing, business development and leadership roles in tech companies such as IBM and Ask Jeeves.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in managerial economics form U.C. Davis; and an MBA in computer information systems from California State University-East Bay.