High Tech & Clean Tech Job Trends

From 2000 to 2008, Silicon Valley high-tech industries lost more than 108,400 jobs (19.9% of their total workforce), and real wages went down by 13.5%. High-tech industries outside of Silicon Valley saw nearly 431,000 jobs losses but had a more modest 6.2-percent rate of decline in employment over the 2000–08 period, according to the publication “Crash and reboot”.

Among the high-tech industries, the largest share of total annual wages in 2008 was in  computer systems design (22.6), followed by the Internet services, telecommunications, and data processing cluster (12.8%), computer manufacturing (12.0%), scientific research (12.0%), and semiconductor manufacturing (11.6%). In 2008 these five industries accounted for 71% of all high-tech industry wages and 69.8% of Silicon Valley high-tech employment.

Silicon Valley’s high tech has been led by biotech and Internet companies as well as a new investment boom in the emerging area of clean environment technology. Bay Area startups received 45% of $6.5 billion in venture capital invested nationwide during the second quarter, compared with 32% of $4.9 billion in the previous three months.

Nationwide, CleanTech funding has increased 107% over the previous quarter to $1.5 billion. The Bay Area saw 7 of the 10 largest deals in the second quarter, topped by $350 million for the electric automotive startup Better Place (a Palo Alto company that largely operates overseas) and $150 million for Oakland-based BrightSource Energy, a utility-scale solar power developer.

Investment in venture capital for the solar sector has moved upwards for the third quarter in a row, topping previous amounts since the 2008 economic crisis at $871 million, according to the Cleantech Group.


CleanTech Graph 9-2010

Source: Cleantech Group 2Q10 Quarterly Investment Monitor

Worldwide venture capitalists invested $10.3 billion in 1,160 deals, according to industry tracker Dow Jones VentureSource. This represents a 29% increase in capital invested and a 14% rise in deals over the $8 billion invested in 1,022 deals during same period last year.

But is the current investment enough to pull us out of the Great Recession and put us back on a path of economic productivity and robust employment? Recommendations range across the political spectrum from scrapping all government regulation and social security programs to demands for more ‘stimulus’ to cover all aspects of economics. Many voices speak to changing the fundamental structure of our economy.

An interesting article called The Roadmap to a High-Speed Recovery speaks to responding to current circumstances with the creation of new development patterns, new ways of living and working, and new economic landscapes. Examples of this so-called “spatial fix” include accelerating the transmission of new ideas, increasing underlying productivity, and generating new ideas to “fertilize and turn into new innovations and new industries”.  New to me was the idea that policy needs to encourage less home ownership as the author contemplates freeing up capital and the movement of labor. Concentrated development (as opposed to suburban sprawl), portable benefits (not just health care), and high speed rail are suggested mechanisms in addition to overhauling our educational system and making entrepreneurship a fundamental focus.

Another article of interest is How America Can Create Jobs. The crux of the article is that we need to recreate the scaling process in the U.S., i.e. nurture the start-up, fund it, but then rather than expatriate the manufacturing abroad, keep the jobs domestic. In this way not only is there more U.S. employment but we can also harness and nurture the scaling and innovation that comes with being an integral part of an effective ecosystem in which technology know-how can accumulate, experience can build on experience, and closer relationships can be forged between suppliers and customers. The author cites examples of the job machine (scaling and innovation process) breaking down in computers, and in alternative energy. Photovoltaics, a U.S. invention, are now primarily manufactured in China. “U.S. employment in the making of photovoltaic films and panels is perhaps 10,000—just a few% of estimated worldwide employment.” Not only have we foregone a large number of jobs, we risk breaking “the chain of experience that is so important in technological evolution. As happened with batteries, abandoning today’s “commodity” manufacturing can lock you out of tomorrow’s emerging industry.”

Suggested reading:

Crash and reboot: Silicon Valley high-tech employment and wages, 2000–08

The Roadmap to a High-Speed Recovery: Forget a bigger stimulus or a smaller deficit—we need to blow up the fundamentals of our economy. By Richard Florida

How America Can Create Jobs, By Andy Grove, of Intel & Lecturer in Management Stanford Graduate School of Business

Venture funding up for valley startups

Investment Grows in Venture Hubs Around the World, Dow Jones VentureSource

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