University receives $300,000 to train tech workers

SF State will be better equipped to prepare students for internships and jobs in the tech industry, thanks to a nearly $300,000 grant from the city of San Francisco.

Funded by the city's Office of Economic and Workforce Development, the grant is part of the TechSF initiative to train San Francisco residents for high-tech jobs. Associate Professor of Computer Science William Hsu and Associate Professor of Engineering Hamid Mahmoodi will use the new funding to develop independent study projects for students that will cultivate job skills currently sought by employers.

A photo of SF State Associate Professor of Computer Science William Hsu.

Associate Professor of Computer Science William Hsu.

"We'll find out from companies in the area what kind of skills and technologies they need that we currently don't cover in our curriculum, and then set up projects for students to learn and demonstrate these technologies," said Hsu. "At the end of it, students will be prepared to apply for internships at these companies."

Many of these skills, like HTML 5 or mobile app development, may be partially covered in the curriculum, but the technologies are so vast that classes may not address all of their aspects. Some students already work on independent study projects, but the TechSF grant will allow Hsu and Mahmoodi to create a more formal infrastructure for these kinds of projects.

"The industry is looking for students who have the skills needed in the rapidly evolving fields of computer science and engineering. This project will allow us to bring the latest technologies, design methodologies and practices into our education," Mahmoodi said.

Hsu said the project will likely include creating a website where students can browse for jobs. The grant money will also help defray tuition costs for students who want to take summer internships for credit.

A photo of SF State Associate Professor of Engineering Hamid Mahmoodi.

Associate Professor of Engineering Hamid Mahmoodi.

"There's a lot of information out there for students looking for internships or jobs, and it can be a bit vague how to proceed," Hsu said. "Having the infrastructure to connect students with openings they are interested in and connect companies with students who have those skills will be very helpful."

The TechSF initiative, launched by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee in March, is designed to train San Francisco residents for the city's growing number of technology jobs. The initiative has received $8 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Hsu says the initiative will benefit the entire city, not just the tech industry.

"Part of the motivation is to help local residents connect with professional opportunities in the area, keeping highly skilled professionals in the city," he said. "That's very important for keeping San Francisco a lively and exciting place for innovation and culture."

-- Jonathan Morales