Proficia is a Finalist for the Hack the Beach Contest

People often focus on what’s happening at the national level of government, but local government has a great deal of influence on our daily lives in less dramatic ways. Local government initiatives can improve the quality of life for local residents, but they also create jobs and opportunities for small businesses to grow.

The City of Santa Monica is sponsoring its second annual Hack the Beach Contest to expand the pool of vendors to the City for tech-related projects.This contest follows a process similar to a hackathon, in which small teams quickly develop a prototype solution for a problem based on a theme. Volunteer subject-matter experts mentor the teams and help them refine their solution. Then the teams pitch their idea to a panel of judges. A “hack” in this context is a clever temporary solution to a problem. Often, these initial solutions can develop after the hackathon into full-fledged apps or even businesses and non-profit organizations.

Santa Monica’s government is not just giving the traditional type of hackathon awards, like discounts on training and coworking space, appointments with business advisors and incubators, and technical tours. The City adds finalists to their approved vendor list. They are looking to develop new vendor relationships in order to bring new expertise and ideas to Santa Monica.

The Contest focuses on six themes: building community, responsive government, health, place and planet, learning, and economic opportunity. The City asks contestants to improve the lives of Santa Monica residents in one or more of these six areas. Santa Monica’s Wellbeing Index is a way of identifying areas of need in the community that require attention.

Proficia’s Proposal

Proficia helps large non-profit and government organizations upskill local workers to enable local hiring. First, we find employers facing talent shortages and design training and placement programs around their needs. Second, we create jobs by hiring some of our trainees to work for our own company, to provide technical services for our clients through paid apprenticeships. Third, we do research and policy specializing in tech and employment issues.

Here are a few examples of our recent programs:

We created the first data science partnership between the City of LA and a community college. We led a group of LA City College students and community members through a project to analyze personnel data for the City. The curriculum we developed from this experience is now approved for state funding for job seekers.

We worked with funding from the Youth Policy Institute to train young people finishing their GEDs to become electronics technicians in a program based at the LA Cleantech Incubator.

With support from the Coalition for the Economy and Jobs, we are currently working with LA Metro’s Workforce Initiative Now to prepare community college students for skilled jobs created by Measure M transportation infrastructure funding.

What does this mean? Large government programs create lots of jobs. Advocates for local communities argue that contractors who build subway cars or roads and bridges should be required to hire locally. But employers sometimes complain that they can’t find qualified workers locally. Training local people in advance through a local-hire program is a way to satisfy both sides.

In fact, just as in the construction industry, tech firms struggle to find local tech talent, particularly senior level developers. They keep going to the Bay Area and beyond when they could be looking right here in the Los Angeles metro area. It’s not because talented people don’t live here. It’s because, according to the 2017 IT Sector Report for the Los Angeles Area tech firms find talent in two main ways: recruiting from elite schools, and their employees’ networks. Not only women and people of color, but Santa Monica tech talent, in general, could be better connected with local employers.

We have designed a part-time training program in React Native for people with existing coding or engineering skills. React is Facebook’s new app platform for the web, iOS, and Android. React developers are in high demand.

We will help some of our graduates connect with employers and hire others to work directly for us.

We are expanding our technical consulting services to include app development. This new branch, based in Santa Monica, will build apps and enhance platform technology on contract with local media and technology companies. Our team of engineers will work with funded startups as our clients. We will select graduates from our program to work as apprentices on client projects, building skills while getting paid.

Why Santa Monica? Santa Monica is a perfect place to locate this training because a strong tech talent base is already living and working here. There is no reason for early-stage tech and media companies to be hiring from the Bay Area when people in Santa Monica could qualify for these jobs.

The talent development pipeline starts with free meetups at Santa Monica Library open to the public but focused on the prerequisite skills needed to participate successfully in the training program. These are intermediate skills that require technical acumen. Meetup participants who demonstrate that they’ve mastered the prerequisites will be eligible to learn React Native mobile app development skills in a paid training program. Scholarship funding will be available.

What can the City of Santa Monica do to support local hiring? Santa Monica can incentivize local tech companies to hire Santa Monica residents beyond the entry level. They can also help connect our program to interested employers who would like to access local talent.

Proficia wants to help more local people access rewarding tech jobs and create new jobs through social enterprise. Through Hack the Beach, Proficia has gained a foothold to expand our job creation activities into Santa Monica.

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