Summer is here, the word is out, and more than 1,400 area high school and college students are already registered for skill-enriching internships this year through SA Works, the workforce development arm of the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation.

As SA Works officials strive to connect intern candidates and employers as it has done the past four years, the group on Thursday released its twice-yearly jobs report, this time focused on the SAEDF’s target industries of information technology (IT), manufacturing, and health care in the San Antonio metropolitan statistical area (MSA), and the talent gaps that exist.

The report details local hiring activities and the education levels, skill requirements, and wages associated with top job postings. Its purpose, said SA Works Executive Director Romanita Matta-Barrera, is to help students, job seekers, educators, and employers understand the employment landscape in San Antonio now and into the future.

“The higher eds, the postsecondary institutions, have really been target consumers of this,” Matta-Barrera said in a wide-ranging conversation at the SAEDF offices with the Rivard Report on Wednesday.

“[Alamo Colleges Chancellor Mike] Flores is using that as his guiding post in terms of what are some of the key credentials, certifications, and degree programs that the college also wants to focus on,” she said. “And so we have been having very robust conversations with them in terms of how can they pivot potentially some of their programs.”

Focusing on workforce development in tandem with attracting and retaining new business to San Antonio is what SAEDF President and CEO Jenna Saucedo-Herrera believes will “move the needle” for San Antonio in reaching the economic development goals established in the Forefront SA Business Plan.

“Every single visit with not only prospective new folks to our market but local employers, we discuss workforce development and we discuss the need, again, not just for their workforce today, but what they need 10 and 20 years out,” Saucedo-Herrera said. “And that conversation always starts with developing our local talent.”

The report concluded that while job growth is up, the key to maintaining a stable workforce in San Antonio amid a tight labor market and low unemployment is a focus on skill development.

Jenna Saucedo-Herrera, president and CEO of the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation Credit: Courtesty / San Antonio Economic Development Foundation

And given that more and more jobs in San Antonio and elsewhere will be subject to automation over the next several years, there’s a push by SA Works to fill the pipeline with talent for the jobs that exist today as well as for the future.

“We want individuals in San Antonio to know who’s hiring, what they are hiring for, how much they are paying, what type of education do I need, et cetera,” Saucedo-Herrera said. The report also helps educational institutions design programming that fits with the local talent needs.

Between August 2018 and January 2019, the San Antonio-New Braunfels MSA had 54,521 unique online job postings in those three sectors – a 45 percent increase from the six-month period in the previous jobs report. The largest increases in job postings in all three sectors were for social and human services assistants and financial managers.

The report states that in 2019, over 33,800 MSA residents work in IT, a 3 percent employment growth between 2018 and 2019. The majority of jobs are in data processing, hosting, and related services, computer systems design, and federal government and civilian projects. The area’s median compensation for these jobs is $81,500, compared with the national median of $87,000.

In manufacturing, about 45,700 residents hold jobs in machinery, production, and engineering. This represents nearly a 5 percent growth in employment since 2018. Not surprisingly given Toyota’s presence here, the majority of manufacturing jobs in San Antonio are associated with automobile manufacturing. The median wage for these jobs is $45,900, which is $3,400 higher than the national median.

The industry among the three with the highest number of employees is health care, with more than 105,713 residents working in health care and related technical occupations in 2019. This sector grew more than 4 percent since last year. Most hold jobs in general medical and surgical hospitals fields, followed by offices of physicians and home health care services. The median compensation for this sector is $47,320, well below the national median wage of $50,148.

The Harvey E. Najim KidSTOP.
The health care sector grew more than 4 percent since last year. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

For the first time, the SA Works jobs report also provided demographic data – gender, age, and ethnicity of people working in those sectors – so trends can begin to be monitored. Currently, there are more men than women working in IT and manufacturing jobs, and more women than men in health care jobs.

Also, a greater number of Hispanic and Latino people are working manufacturing jobs (49 percent) than IT and health, while a greater number of non-Hispanic people are working in IT (49 percent) than all other ethnicities.

The SAEDF’s workforce development strategy includes weaving into agreements with new employers some elements of support for its efforts, Saucedo-Herrera said.

“We are asking for internships. We’re asking for support of SA Works,” she said. “We’re asking for support of some of the solutions that we’re discussing, not just from the typical players in our market that we always asked to step up, but from some of these new players like PenFed, Victory Capital, and other folks that are in the pipeline today.”

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Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger is the development beat reporter for the San Antonio Report.