Last week, the ATC featured this post from Mayoral Candidate Steve Adler. But Adler’s campaign chose not to answer the questions from Silicon Hills News.
This week, the ATC features this post from Sheryl Cole. And Cole has answered the questions below too.
Q. Technology in Austin, as in all major hubs of innovation in the country, has a pipeline problem when it comes to filling jobs. There are more jobs in the Science, Technology Engineering and Math fields open than there are qualified applicants. What steps can you take, as Mayor, to ensure that the Austin workforce can meet the needs of the growing technology industry?
A. I believe that there are several key things that the Mayor of Austin can do to support our STEM pipeline. The first is to serve as an example and to highlight and praise individuals who have chosen or who have excelled in a STEM career. The second is to be a strong advocate for proper funding for our school system – to make sure that we have qualified teachers available in key subject areas. Third, the City of Austin funds several programs from early childhood development to workforce training that help prepare both youths and adults with the skills they need to join the technology and innovation workforce. Lastly, we need to create the supportive environment as a city that fosters opportunity. This has many factors, but it has been shown time and again that opportunity depends a great deal on one’s surroundings and the quality of a neighborhood – from schools to public safety – is very much my concern and would continue to be if elected mayor of this city.
DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION
Q. Studies have shown that diversity is a key to success in the technology industry and business in general. How, as Mayor, would you specifically work to nurture diversity in the tech sector to ensure more opportunities for minorities and women?
A. Great question and I thank you for asking it. I’ll stress again that we need to elevate positive role models in the technology sector for women and people of color. That respect goes a long way to letting people in these demographics know that they would be valued in the technology sector. Beyond this, I believe that making special care that the pipeline we’re developing taps into all parts of the community and to make sure that there are good mentor relationships established to keep people in the pipeline.
Q. Austin is getting the Dell Medical School, which will act as a catalyst in helping to develop the area’s life sciences industry. What do you think the City of Austin needs to do to support and nurture this emerging industry?
A. The life science potential for Austin is something that is really exciting and still fairly nascent. I believe that Austin has an incredible opportunity with the UT Medical school to really establish a new and up to date model for healthcare, life science education and its related commercialization as well. The City has benefited a great deal from tech companies that have moved here or were established here because of institutions like Sematech. Today, we’re in the process of establishing an innovation district surrounding the med school and we retain a number of economic incentive programs that would help attract local investment in the life science industry. Beyond creating the opportunities for the intelligent and entrepreneurial to collaborate, the next biggest challenge is then to just follow that where it leads us. I don’t know what the needs of the health sciences of tomorrow are in detail, but when they are presented to the city, I know we need to have an open ear and a positive response in order to help this industry flourish here.
Q. What is your view on providing incentives to tech companies to locate or expand in Austin?
A. Austin’s greatest competitive advantage are its fundamentals: a well educated workforce, a high quality of life and relative affordability compared to markets on either coast. I also see value in landing key players, securing headquarter relocations, improving diversity of industries, and ensuring Austin’s values are upheld. For these reasons as well as the positive return on investment, I’ve supported incentive packages that were vetted through our incentive program. The larger incentives are State dollars that are tied to a local approval. I can’t comment on the administration of the state incentive programs, but I’ve proud to support our well thought out local program in pursuing many different types of job creation opportunities for Austin.