San Diego has two “advantages of place” that have helped make it economically viable: a welcoming harbor and great weather for most of the year. The former attracted the U.S. Navy, which fueled the city’s growth and continues to be a cornerstone of the regional economy. The latter attracted talented people from across the country who built an economic powerhouse with their entrepreneurship, innovation, and willingness to take risks.

Dr. Raj Chetty, Ph.D.

Over just the past 30 years, San Diego has built more than 50 research institutes; 600 companies that create sports-related products and services; 600 companies in biotech and other life sciences; 1,100 businesses focused on wireless and computer software products; 250 developing energy and environmental solutions, and 300 in fields related to defense and security. (Source: Invention & Reinvention: The Evolution of San Diego’s Innovation Economy, by Mary Lindenstein Walshok and Abraham J. Shragge, Stanford Business Books, 2014.)

As a university, addressing how to better connect these workforce needs with education is something we are interested in advancing. It fits in well with the mission of the Precision Institute at National University and will be the focus of our upcoming Feb. 27 Distinguished Speakers Series, featuring Stanford University economist Raj Chetty.

Skilled Employees Needed
A recent analysis by EMSI, a firm that gathers and analyzes labor market data for universities, workforce development agencies, and corporations, found that the number of biotech and research jobs in the region is growing in San Diego seven times faster than the national average. That is making it difficult for employers to hire enough people with advanced degrees but also for entry level jobs requiring basic data, communication, technical, and business-related skills.

Our students come to us from a range of backgrounds and they have a variety of educational goals, including seeking a job in a new field, and employers badly want our students and the skills and knowledge they bring in many different roles, such as working in laboratories, collecting data, and managing projects

National University is addressing the shortage of qualified employees by making sure our programs are relevant and aligned with local workforce needs. Second, the NuNav platform being developed by the Precision Institute at National University will help students choose and adjust their career paths by letting them know what skills employers require and how to acquire them.

Thirdly, we’re working with other educational and business entities in San Diego to come up with a regional solution. We are looking forward to guiding a community discussion on the topic of workforce-education solutions as part of our Feb. 27 event, which is being held in partnership with the San Diego Workforce Partnership, San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, and other regional sponsors.

Improving Economic Mobility
Professor Chetty, who is a director of the Equality of Opportunity Project, has gained national notice for his research on the American Dream and intergenerational economic mobility as well as evidence-based policy solutions. Digging deeply into data on individuals’ income and education, Chetty has shown that the chance that young people from low-income families will be better off economically than their parents has fallen by nearly 50 percent since 1940. That’s a tide we want to change. At National University, we pride ourselves in helping our students, many of whom are like those Professor Chetty studies, move up the economic ladder.

If our graduates do better, all of us—the students themselves, the employers, and the community—will benefit.

Blog post by Dr. David Andrews, President of National University. Precision Education at National University is a research-based initiative that is exploring new ways to leverage technology, open education resources, and predictive data analytics to adapt to student needs and guide them to successful completion of their academic and career goals. Learn more at: https://www.nu.edu/precision