Social Media and Internet Commerce Job Growth in California

Michael Bernick
Counsel with the international law firm of Duane Morris LLP, a Milken Institute Fellow and former Director of the California Employment Development Department

Earlier this month, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group (SVLG) hosted a lunch for its business members  with San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. Like all SVLG events, the room was packed, a combination of old line financial services and accounting firms, along with newer alternate energy and technology firms. The gathering was meant to cover a variety of topics. But as with most policy discussions today in California, the focus was on jobs, and especially on the emerging social media and internet commerce jobs.

Among the main questions raised  by the SVLG participants: What data exist on social media/internet commerce  jobs? Who are being hired in these jobs? What job training programs are being developed to link unemployed Californians to these jobs?

A few notes below from workforce practitioners and labor market analysts in California

How many social media/internet commerce jobs are present?

Pinpointing the number of social media/internet commerce jobs in San Francisco and throughout California is not easy. The state Employment Development Department (EDD) has not yet developed sector or occupational coding for the social media/internet jobs. These jobs currently are spread throughout sectors (Information, Business and Professional Services, Trade), and among occupational codes.

EDD labor market analyst Ms. Ruth Kavanagh suggests that a starting point for technology jobs generally is the three sub-sectors of Information (excluding sub-categories of Motion Picture & Sound Recording, Broadcasting, and Telecommunications), Computer Systems Design, and Computer Product Manufacturing. The data for San Francisco (which is reported as part of a three county metropolitan area) are below:

San Francisco/San Mateo/Marin Metropolitan Area

Month/Year Total Jobs Across Sectors Computer Systems Design & Related Services Computer Product Manufacturing Information (excluding non-internet categories)
April 2012 972,400 43,400 7,800 29,000
April 2011 946,700 37,400 7,800 26,300

Source: California Employment Development Department, 2012

These numbers suggest one of the limitations of focusing too heavily on a technology jobs strategy, even in the Bay Area. The number of new jobs and even the number of job openings due to turnover is limited, compared to the number of unemployed/underemployed in the region. The three sub-sectors noted above are less than 9% of the jobs in the metropolitan area.  The total job gain over the year for these three sub-sectors was 8700 jobs.

Beyond the EDD data, one can get an idea of the social media/internet commerce jobs by going on the job boards of the major firms. San Francisco is in the midst of a technology boom that is being driven by the social media and internet commerce firms, and dwarfs the dot.com boom of the early 2000s. The larger firms, including Salesforce, Twitter and Zynga, are expanding their workforces, and their growth is accompanied by the beehive of  tech entrepreneurs in the South of Market area: Airbnb, Yelp, Zendesk, Riverbed, Yammer, Mozilla, Zoosk, among them.

Go on the job boards of any of these companies today and you will find tens, even hundreds of new job listings. On a recent day, Twitter listed 38 job openings for engineering positions (“Data Scientist-Monetization”, “Data Scientist-User Group,” “Mobile Developer Advocate, Platform”, “Network and Infrastructure Security Engineer”). Twitter  also posted a range of jobs in Business Development & Sales (22 openings) and Corporate (10 openings). Salesforce.com had 346 job listings, concentrated in software engineering (“Architect: Cloud Storage”, “Senior Software Engineer, Platform Developer Tools Team”, “Lead quality Engineer, Chatter Realtime”), but also including jobs in marketing/sales, human resources, and administration.

Who is getting these jobs?

Twitter, Salesforce and the other technology firms are drawing tens of applicants, even hundreds of applicants, for nearly all job openings. They are drawing from a national and even international labor force. The competition for any job opening is severe. Advanced technology skills are needed for most jobs, including the sales and marketing jobs, as well as a passion for technology. Formal education and degrees are less important in technology hiring than in the more traditional sectors.

What of job training programs for social media/internet jobs?

Most of the Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs)  in California are developing social media/internet training, with the NOVA and San Jose WIBs among the most advanced. These two WIBs in 2011 undertook several studies on the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) cluster in the Silicon Valley, the decision-making process used by employers, and the roles for the public workforce system. Two of these studies available online are “Silicon Valley in Transition: Economic and Workforce Implications in the Age of iPads, Android Apps, and the Social Web” and “Tech Resumes 2.0: An Employer Perspective.”

The San Francisco Workforce Investment Board (WIB) is moving forward on its social media/internet commerce strategy, having just received a $5 million Department of Labor grant. The SF WIB effort, headed by Ms. Rhonda Simmons and Ms. Amy Wallace, is in the process of mapping the social media/internet commerce job world, including the entry opportunities and the potential paths for career mobility.

 

As importantly, on the private sector side in San Francisco, well-known technology investor, Mr. Ron Conway, has established sf.citi (San Francisco Citizens Initiative for Technology and Innovation) to link employers and job training. Mr. Conway brings to the table that most precious commodity in job training: the connection with employers. Mr. Conway has been involved in contacting technology firms to urge their participation, and sf.citi counts over 160 firms as part of its coalition. Zynga, the social network game developer headquartered South of Market, is among the most active firms in thinking about the employment impacts of social media, given the personal interest of its CEO, Mr. Mark Pincus.

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