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Good tech jobs can be the key to closing New York’s wealth gap

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The trend has been gaining momentum for years. From 2008 to 2018, the number of tech jobs in New York City increased by 45%. And while their relevance to the modern world and increasing availability are key, what’s most important about these jobs is the security and stability they provide to workers looking to establish themselves in the middle class.  

Many of these jobs provide competitive salaries that can set workers up for decades of upward mobility. The tech industry is projected to grow 15% by 2028, easily outpacing the rest of the economy, meaning that workers will continue to be in high demand. 

These pathways to the middle class are more open than one might imagine. There is a growing movement in the tech sector to recognize that a college degree does not solely define a job candidate’s ability. Many top tech companies report hiring candidates without college degrees—a move that has allowed for untold upward mobility, particularly among Black and brown workers.  

So, what can our city do to further encourage growth in tech? First, we can work on educating workers about the opportunities that tech represents. Far too many people and communities feel that tech isn’t for them, and those careers aren’t even options to consider. Educating the workforce helps everyone: workers looking for stable, middle-class jobs in rocky times, companies looking to fill crucial positions, and an economy in need of innovation to fast-track its recovery.  

It’s also essential that we work on closing the digital divide. Currently, those who have reliable internet and can afford to access the digital world enjoy the benefits, while those that can’t are left behind. As the internet continues to become the premier place when jobs are filled, products are bought, and even government operates, this lack of access shifts from inconvenient to invisibility to outright injustice. We cannot stand by and let that happen.  

At a bare minimum, we must ensure that low-income neighborhoods have the tools they need to access the internet, and the potential for growth and development it represents. Beyond that, we must provide all members of our communities with the skills and education they need to fully capitalize on their potential. Faster internet alone won’t bring prosperity if too many smart and talented people don’t understand how to use it. 

Finally, we must do all we can to encourage innovation in tech right here in New York City, and to create a welcoming environment that inspires individuals and companies to call Queens home. In Queens the recently established Queens Tech Council is taking the lead and striving to make the borough the next big start-up hub by investing in creating a strong entrepreneurial community, working to expand access to education and upskilling, and promoting the borough’s diverse talent pool and prime location as key draws for established tech companies looking to put down roots in the area.  

Opportunities to address so many pressing socio-economic concerns at once come along infrequently. Let’s do all we can to spread the word about what tech can do for our city. 

Thomas Grech is president and CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce. Clyde Vanel is an assemblyman for the 33rd District and chair of the subcommittee on Internet and New Technologies. 

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