CUNY graduates are struggling to find jobs in New York City’s technology sector, according to a report by the Center for the Future of Cities.
The New York City-based think tank has found an imbalance among CUNY students in the city’s tech workforce. According to reports, only 50 percent of CUNY computer science graduates between 2017 and 2021 obtained careers related to the field in the city.
CUNY students make up less than 0.3 percent of the workforce at New York’s largest tech companies, according to the center’s analysis of LinkedIn data. It said it lacked compared with students at other local higher education institutions such as Columbia University and New York University.
An engineering director, who requested anonymity, told the center that the mid-sized tech company they work for has not “offered a new graduate offer to anyone from CUNY.”
Each year more than 9,000 students graduate from CUNY degree programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. Approximately 4,000 graduates complete technology-related degrees each year.
The center spoke to more than 75 CUNY employees. It also interviewed more than two dozen current students and graduates working in technology, though they requested anonymity for protection. At a mid-sized tech company in the city, a CUNY graduate and now an engineer said they were “the only ones.”
“The last time I checked, there were two CUNY graduates working at our company,” a developer of urban software for a global technology company told the center. “I’m one of them. The other is someone I recommend.”
The center recommends actions CUNY can take to improve graduates’ employment opportunities in technical fields, such as expanding field-related programs.
CUNY’s “Tech Prep” program currently serves only 170 people a year across all 11 four-year colleges. The university’s Tech Talent Pipeline program has served just 750 students over the past five years.
Additionally, the “CUNY 2x Tech” program is only available on 7 of the 25 campuses. That includes City College, Hunter College and Lehman College — but not Baruch College, which is offering a computer science minor this academic year.
The initiative launched in 2017 as part of a pipeline initiative under former New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio. His goal was to “build a bigger pipeline” for industry jobs, at a time when 1,000 graduates a year were completing technology-related degrees.
While CUNY produces more graduates with computer science degrees than any other university in the city, the center also said students compete with each other because of the limited number of internships. Only 10 percent of CUNY students reportedly participate in field-related co-ops.
Since 2010, the city’s tech sector has added 113,900 jobs, more than any other industry, the report said. However, the center also said that 20.8 percent of the industry is made up of black and Hispanic urban residents, while 43 percent of the city’s total workforce is made up of these populations.
Nearly 50 percent of CUNY students currently enrolled in STEM-related degree programs are black or Hispanic, the center noted. Approximately 71 percent of CUNY students come from working-class backgrounds.
“Tech is where good jobs in New York are growing,” Jonathan Bowles, the center’s executive director, told The New York Times. “Very few of them go to people of color.”
The center called on current New York City Mayor Eric Adams and the New York City Council to push for more tech-related work, as it would align with the former’s post-pandemic economic development plan. It also called for more tech companies to visit CUNY campuses and recruit students for entry-level jobs.
“The technology sector needs to realize that there’s a gold mine on these campuses, but that needs to go through the gates,” said Vincent Boudreau, dean of the City College. “If an employer is shopping for a student, they usually walk past our window.”