NYC’s technology workforce lacks CUNY graduates



Ajay Suresh | Flickr

Caryl Anne Francia, Business Editor

CUNY graduates struggled to obtain employment in New York City’s technology sector, according to a report by the Center for an Urban Future.

The New York City-based think tank found an imbalance of CUNY students in the city’s technology workforce. It reported that only 50% of computer science graduates from CUNY obtained field-related careers in the city between 2017 and 2021.

CUNY students accounted for less than 0.3% of workers in New York’s largest technology companies, according to the center’s analysis of data from LinkedIn. It said it lacked in comparison to students from other local higher learning institutions such as Columbia University and New York University.

An engineering director, who requested anonymity, told the center that the middle-sized technology firm they work at has not “made a single new grad offer to anyone coming in from CUNY.”

Over 9,000 students graduate annually from CUNY degree programs related to the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. About 4,000 graduates annually completed technology-related degrees.

The center spoke with more than 75 CUNY employees. It also interviewed more than 20 current students and graduates pursuing work in the technology field, though they requested to remain anonymous for protection. At a middle-sized technology company in the city, a CUNY graduate, now  an engineer, said they were “the only one.”

“There are two CUNY graduates working at our company last time I checked,” a city-based software developer for a global technology company told the center. “I’m one of them. The other was a person I recommended.”

The center suggested actions that CUNY could take to improve graduates’ employment chances in the technology sector, such as expanding field-related programs.

CUNY’s “Tech Prep” program currently serves only 170 annually at all 11 four-year colleges. The university’s “Tech Talent Pipeline” program served only 750 students in the last five years.

Additionally, “CUNY 2x Tech” initiative was at only seven of the 25 campuses. These include City College, Hunter College and Lehman College — but not Baruch College, which launched a computer science minor this academic year.

The initiative launched from the pipeline program in 2017 under former New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio. He aimed at “building a bigger pipeline” to industry jobs, while the 1,000 graduates annually completed technology-related degrees at the time.

While CUNY is producing more graduates with computer science degrees compared to other universities in the city, the center also said students are pitted against each other due to the limited number of internships. It reported only 10% of CUNY students participated in field-related paid internships.

The city’s technology industry added 113,900 jobs since 2010, outpacing other sectors according to the report. However, the center also said 20.8% of the industry consists of Black and Hispanic city residents, while 43% of the city’s overall workforce consists of this population.

The center noted that close to 50% of CUNY students currently enrolled in STEM-related degree programs are Black or Hispanic. Approximately 71% of CUNY students come from working-class backgrounds.

“Technology is where the good jobs are growing in New York,” Jonathan Bowles, the executive director for the center, told The New York Times. “Too few of them have gone to people of color.”

The center called for current New York City Mayor Eric Adams and the New York City Council to push for more technology-related jobs, as it would align with the former’s post-pandemic economic development plan. It also called for more technology firms to visit CUNY campuses and recruit students for entry-level jobs.

“The technology sector needs to recognize that there’s a goldmine in these campuses, but it takes getting in the door,” City College President Vincent Boudreau said. “If employers are window-shopping for students, they often walk past our window.”