Bay Area Council Blog: Workforce of the Future Archive

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NEW BILL INTRODUCED ON SKILLED IMMIGRATION

In the ongoing immigration debate, the Bay Area Council places special importance on the issues surrounding skilled immigration – H-1B visas, the entrepreneur visa, and green cards. This week Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced his long-anticipated bill—the Immigration Act of 2018 (I-Squared)—which offers the most promising vehicle for addressing the concerns of many Bay Area companies. The issues covered Hatch’s bill are separate from those being debated about the fate of so-called Dreamers under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Hatch’s bill does several things: increases be base allocations of H-1Bs from 65,000 to 85,000; creates a market-based escalator that allows the supply of visas to meet demand; prioritizes petitions for holders of a U.S. master’s degree or higher, holders of foreign PhDs, and holders of U.S. STEM bachelor degrees; prohibits an employer from hiring an H-1B visa holder with the purpose and intent to replace a U.S. worker; provides work authorization for spouses of H-1B holders; increases H-1B worker job mobility; raises from $60,000 to $100,000 the salary level above which employers are exempt from  certain recruitment and non-displacement requirements; eliminates the annual per-country limit for employment-based green cards; increases worker mobility for individuals on the path to a green card; creates a new conditional green card category to allow employers to sponsor university-educated foreign professionals through a separate path from H-1B; enables F-1 student visa holders to seek permanent residence status while a student or during Optional Practical Training (OPT); and increases fees for H-1B visas and employment-based green cards and directs those fees toward state-administered grants to promote STEM education and worker training.

The Council plans to work with Senator Hatch’s office, industry groups, and the Bay Area’s legislative delegation to advance the bill’s proposals, which return the H-1B program to its original intent by ensuring that recipients are high-skilled, precluding the replacement of U.S. workers by H-1B holders, and ensuring that employers have access to the skills and talent they need to be remain competitive.

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THE SKY’S THE LIMIT: FIRST AVIATION CAREER EXPLORATION DAY IS A SUCCESS

Seeking to find solutions to their growing technical talent needs, Bay Area Council members Alaska Airlines, United Airlines, and San Francisco International Airport (SFO) joined forces with the Workforce of the Future Committee to envision, create and host an aviation career exploration event, “Working at SFO: An Insight Event for Local Educators & Community Partners,” last Thursday (1/18). A direct result of the Workforce of the Future Committee’s Aviation Maintenance Occupational Council, the impetus for the event came from employers’ needs to expand their talent pipelines into technical and non-technical roles. The event featured a career expo, career speakers and tours, and allowed local educators, workforce development staff and other career guidance experts to interact directly with employers and learn about the amazing career pathways offered in the aviation industry.

SFO International Airport and the Bay Area Council will host another event on May 16 for students, parents, community members, and interested workers. For more information, please contact Senior Vice President Linda Bidrossian.

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REGIONAL MEASURE 3 TAKES IMPORTANT STEP FORWARD

A bold plan to invest $4.5 billion across the region to ease traffic and improve mass transit for millions of commuters took an important step forward this week (Jan. 10) when the Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA)’s Oversight Committee recommended placing Regional Measure 3 (RM3) on the June ballot. The Bay Area Council, partnering with the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, SPUR and the California Alliance for Jobs, gave input into the legislation by Sen. Jim Beall that authorizes the vote on RM3 and is preparing to lead the campaign for RM3’s passage. RM3 would make important investments to unclog traffic chokepoints on key major freeways in the East Bay, Silicon Valley and the North Bay, help complete the extension of BART to San Jose and replace its aging fleet, expand regional ferry service and make significant improvements to other key local and regional mass transit systems.

A recent poll by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) showed support for RM3 reaches as high as 60 percent, well above the majority threshold needed for passage. But polls are no guarantee of success and passing RM3 will require a concerted regional campaign to inform voters about the many benefits they will enjoy. To pay for the improvements, RM3 proposes raising tolls on seven state-owned bridges by phasing in three $1 increases over the next six years. BATA’s Oversight Committee recommendation to move forward with RM3 now goes to full MTC-BATA for final approval on Jan. 24. To help support the RM3 campaign, please contact Senior Vice President Michael Cunningham.

Photo by New York Times

WITH RECORD BUDGET PROPOSAL, GOV. BROWN SEES RAIN IN THE FUTURE

There hasn’t been a lot of rain so far this winter, but Gov. Jerry Brown had the wet stuff on his mind this week (Jan. 11) when he released a $190 billion budget proposal that ups the state’s “Rainy Day Fund” by $5 billion to $13.5 billion. The reserve is designed to protect California against future economic downturns, which Brown believes is coming sooner rather than later. Still, the budget represents a record for California and includes a $7 billion increase over the previous spending plan. The Bay Area Council applauded many of the spending priorities, which include $4.6 billion for commute improvement projects from last year’s SB1 (Beall) legislation that the Council supported.

The plan invests $245 million to expand and protect affordable housing under SB2 (Atkins), another bill the Council supported last year. Brown proposed another $277 million for housing in anticipation of the passage of a statewide housing bond measure expected to appear on the November 2018 ballot. The spending plan also continues the Governor’s efforts to pay down the overall state debt and makes a small dent in the state’s massive pension liability shortfall. The Council is continuing to analyze the plan and will be weighing in directly as it now moves to the legislature, which has a June deadline to approve it.

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THE YEAR OF HOUSING, ROUND II

Many folks in Sacramento called 2017 the Year of Housing for the 15 bills (many of which the Bay Area Council supported) that Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law that in various ways responded to the state’s awful housing crisis. Despite the volume of new laws designed to ease barriers and provide new funding for housing, the gains were modest compared to the immense scale of a problem that has been decades in the making. Many acknowledged that much more needed to be done, and now it’s starting to look like 2018 may be the main course compared to the appetizer served last year. That’s great news. Senator Scott Wiener was first out of the gate with a package of reform bills that aim to open a floodgate of new housing near transit and put more pressure on cities to meet their commitments for housing. The Council met with Sen. Wiener in December as he was developing his legislation, and many of the changes he is looking to make reflect long-standing reforms to the Regional Housing Needs Allocation process for which we have advocated. We have it on good authority that more reform ideas are soon to come from other members of the Bay Area Caucus.

The Council is also working with state Sen. Bob Wieckowski on a new bill, SB 831, that would build on legislation (SB 1069) we sponsored in 2016 that has unleashed a statewide surge in applications for accessory dwelling units, aka granny or in-law units. And, we are working on legislation to make the construction of student housing near college campuses easier to achieve. At a local level, the Council this week testified at the Alameda City Council in support of a project by member company Carmel Partners that will convert almost 150 units of vacant former military housing into three- and four-bedroom townhomes near the Alameda ferry terminal. The project won approval. Not a bad start to 2018. To engage in the Council’s housing policy, please contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.

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THE ART OF FERRIES

Expanding regional ferry service in the Bay Area continues to be a top priority for the Bay Area Council, and we have been inspired by the ambitious work that New York is doing to build out its own system. The Big Apple’s embrace of ferries was artfully depicted on the most recent cover of New Yorker magazine in an image by artist Jorge Colombo who said riding the East River Ferry “can be a refuge, a secret hideaway, a sanctuary” from the intense traffic onshore.” Ferry riders, he said, can be a great inspiration. “From where I live, in Brooklyn Heights, it’s a much better way to get to Williamsburg and Greenpoint, or to Thirty-fourth Street in Manhattan, than the subways. It’s a mini boat adventure, an endless trip of a few minutes.”

Council CEO Jim Wunderman in a 2015 San Francisco Chronicle OpEd envisioned a future where expanded ferry service could be a game changer in easing traffic gridlock. The Chronicle also recently featured ferries on the front cover of its pages in a story by reporter JK Dineen that examined the work the Water Emergency Transportation Authority is doing now to build out a robust regional ferry system in the Bay Area. That work would get a big boost from the proposed Regional Measure 3 (RM3) that is expected to go on the ballot in June 2018. The Council was a chief proponent of including ferry funding in RM3 and we will be urging the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to place RM3 on the June ballot when it meets on January 24. Read the Chronicle’s “SF Bay ferry service on brink of major expansion”>>
 
To engage in the Council’s ferry work, please contact Policy Director Emily Loper.

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11TH ANNUAL ECONOMIC FORECAST CONFERENCE ON JAN. 19

What is the economic outlook for the Bay Area in 2018 and beyond? How will national and international trends affect our region? Join the Bay Area Council Economic Institute for the 11th Annual Economic Forecast Conference on Friday, January 19 from 8:00am-11:00am at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Each year this conference convenes the region’s top private and public sector leaders to share their economic outlook for the Bay Area, California and the nation. In addition to remarks by SF Fed President Williams, there will be a panel of  thought-leaders from three different sectors: tech, commercial real estate, and finance. Also, visually compelling presentations by the leaders in the field of VR/AR will bring to life the economic forecast by showing what our cities will look like as this development occurs. From new urban homes and offices spaces being created in downtown Oakland to massive developments happening at the San Francisco Shipyards and around San Jose’s Diridon Station, we can now see the future before it is built. Speakers include:

Forecasting the Future
John Williams, President and CEO, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco
Ranjana Clark, Bay Area President, Union Bank
Kausik Rajgopal, West Coast Regional Manager, McKinsey & Company
Colin Yasikochi, Director of Research and Analysis, CBRE
Igor Popov, Economist, Airbnb

Visualizing the Future
O’Bien Chalmers, President, Steelblue
Radha Mistry, Futurist, Autodesk
Aaron Selvertson, CEO and Founder, Owlized

Special Announcement
Mayor Libby Schaaf, City of Oakland; Vice Chair, Bay Area Council Economic Institute

A continental breakfast will be served. Council members will receive a 50% discount using the code BACEI2018. Click here to register.

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2018 POLICY AGENDA TARGETS HOUSING, TRANSPORTATION, WORKFORCE

Behind the Bay Area Council’s continuing advocacy, the California legislature this year took its first (albeit modest) actions to address the state’s historic housing crisis. Much, much more needs to be done, and the Council’s Executive Committee and Board of Directors, under the leadership of Chair and Kaiser Permanente CEO Bernard J. Tyson, this week approved a 2018 policy agenda that calls for escalating our work to achieve deeper, stronger and more effective reforms for spurring the tsunami of new housing the state so badly needs. Already, the Council is identifying new legislation for 2018 that can speed the approval and bring down the cost of new housing.

The 2018 agenda also prioritizes ridding the scourge of traffic fom the Bay Area’s roads and highways and getting more commuters out of their vehicles and into ferries, carpools, shuttles and other forms of transit. The Council is gearing up now for a campaign to win passage of Regional Measure 3, a $4.4 billion transportation investment plan that is expected to hit the June 2018 ballot. Rounding out the Council’s top policy priorities for 2018 is building a stronger workforce pipeline to meet the future needs of the region’s employers. The Council’s Workforce of the Future Committee is making immense strides to better align educators and employers to close the region’s yawning middle skills and talent gap, as well as creating new career opportunities for underserved youth.

Along with the top three policy priority areas, the 2018 agenda includes gender equity and workforce diversity, healthcare, advanced communication infrastructure, China and global innovation, carbon reduction and renewables, and water and climate resiliency.

The policy agenda was approved Thursday (Dec. 7) during a meeting hosted by new member Santa Clara University. The Board also welcomed state Sen. Jim Beall Jr. and applauded him for his incredible leadership as the author this year of SB 1, which invests $52 billion in statewide transportation improvements, and SB 595, which authorized the vote on Regional Measure 3. Beall talked about both measures and outlined his plans for new legislation for delivering transportation projects faster and at lower cost. The Council will be working closely with Sen. Beall on that project delivery legislation.

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FOCUS TURNS TO 2018 FOR ESCALATING RESPONSE TO CA HOUSING CRISIS

California’s housing crisis was the hot topic of a discussion the Bay Area Council Housing Committee hosted this week with special guest Eleni Kounalakis, 2018 candidate for Lieutenant Governor and former U.S. Ambassador to Hungary. Kounalakis, former president of AKT Development, one of California’s largest housing development firms, said housing is a major plank in her campaign. She described a number of concrete strategies to increase housing production, many of which are consistent with solutions the Council is pursuing, including utilizing public land for development, adding teeth to the housing element law, making some public funds dependent on housing production, supporting bonds to subsidize housing, and creating CEQA exemptions for housing for teachers, first responders, nurses and other employees that are vital to supporting our “social infrastructure.” Kounalakis cited Bay Area first responders who live in Sacramento because of a lack of affordable housing in the Bay Area and the public safety risk that poses here. The Housing Committee will be advocating and potentially sponsoring state legislation next year to support many of these policies. To engage in the Council’s housing policy work, please contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.

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Regional Coalition Submits Bid for Amazon HQ2

Leveraging a highly skilled and educated talent pool, a renowned innovation culture unmatched in the world and a slew of large transit-rich development sites located near top universities and airports, a Bay Area Council-led coalition of cities including Concord, Fremont, Oakland, Richmond and San Francisco today (Oct. 19) submitted a proposal to bring Amazon’s second corporate headquarters to the Bay Area. The Bay Area Council worked with the cities and other partners to coordinate the development of the bid.

“The Bay Area offers the whole package and is a natural and perfect fit for an innovation leader like Amazon,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “We are the world’s innovation capitol. We offer top talent, top universities and large development sites connected by a rich network of mass transit and other transportation systems. Our competitive advantages are unparalleled, including our strong connections to the huge Asia-Pacific region.”

The coalition of cities working with the Bay Area Council has identified numerous sites which together offer Amazon an unmatched level of flexibility to create a world-class headquarters that embraces new models of dispersed but highly connected workplaces.

Read the Bay Area Amazon HQ2 proposal>>

The proposal includes more than 60 million square feet of high-quality office and research and development space, far exceeding Amazon’s requirement for up to 8 million square feet needed to house 50,000 workers. All of the sites provide seamless connections to robust transportation and mass transit networks, including BART and a fast-growing ferry system, and easy access to both regional and international airports.

Among the sites featured in the proposal are the Concord Naval Weapons Station in Concord, Coliseum City and numerous downtown locations in Oakland, the Warm Springs Innovation District in Fremont, SF Shipyard in San Francisco and the Richmond Field Station and Hilltop Mall in Richmond. All the cities are served by BART, which is undergoing a massive upgrade to expand its capacity and speed in the coming years, as well as by nearby international and regional airports and freeways. The proposal includes a combined 45,000 units of new housing that cities envision being built in the coming years.

“We are extremely confident that steps we are taking now as a region to improve our housing and transportation infrastructure will address Amazon’s needs for its workforce and future growth,” Wunderman said. “Our housing production has increased three fold in just the past six years and numerous residential development sites throughout the region envision adding tens of thousands of more units in the next five to 10 years.”

Amazon already knows the value of being located in the Bay Area, with current operations occupying more than 3 million square feet around the region.

A major draw for tech employers like Amazon is the access to some of the world’s best talent. Not only does the Bay Area produce its own highly educated and highly skilled workforce from top tier universities and colleges like UC Berkeley, Stanford, UC Davis, UC San Francisco, California State University East Bay and St. Marys attracts the best and brightest workers from around the globe. More than 75 percent of the Bay Area population holds a bachelor’s degree or higher, with more than 40 percent of those coming from science and engineering-related fields.

The proposal also outlines a range of state and local tax credits and other incentives along with commitments to streamline permitting and environmental review and work with Amazon on various workforce training and similar programs.