SD Universities to Benefit from Apple Expansion

Apple plans to add nearly 4,000 jobs in greater San Diego through 2026, which could mean more interest in nearby universities that focus on wireless technology, artificial intelligence, silicon engineering and cybersecurity.

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Apple’s decision this week to add nearly 4,000 jobs in greater San Diego through 2026 is likely to be a boon for the county’s universities, which produce the kind of software and hardware engineers the famed company badly needs.

To differing degrees, the schools also focus on the areas where Apple says it needs research assistance: wireless technology, 5G, artificial intelligence, silicon engineering and cybersecurity.

The county’s five major universities serve more than 15,000 engineering and computer science students, and have corporate partnerships with such companies as Northrop Grumman, Boeing, San Diego Gas & Electric, and Qualcomm.

About 9,200 of those students are at UC San Diego’s Jacobs School of Engineering, the largest program of its kind on the West Coast. And it’s about to get bigger. The school is constructing two large research buildings, one of which was heavily shaped by faculty member Don Norman, a former research executive at Apple.

“Luck favors the prepared,” said Albert Pisano, UCSD’s engineering dean. “We will soon be launching a new curriculum called A.I. Tools for Engineering. There is spectacular overlap between the intrinsic strengths of the Jacobs school and the core endeavors that Apple is hoping to go forward with.”

Monday’s announcement drew a similar reaction from Eugene Olevsky, dean of San Diego State University’s College of Engineering, which has 4,833 students.

“We are thrilled to have Apple expand its San Diego footprint,” he said. “(The) SDSU Engineering curriculum is very hands-on and prepares graduates to step into industry and be successful.”

“It’s always a good time to be an engineer as we help solve the world’s problems, but it’s especially good right now,” Olevsky said. “The demand for engineers is high, and the California State University system produces a great number of them.”

There also are more than 1,000 engineering students at Cal State San Marcos, Point Loma Nazarene University, and at the University of San Diego, which just finished a major overhaul of Belanich Engineering Center.

Apple’s plans for San Diego are part of a larger effort to add 20,000 jobs nationwide over the next five years at a cost of $430 billion.

Boston, Austin and Seattle will handle some of the growth. But the largest number of jobs — roughly 3,800 — will go San Diego, a research mecca in the life sciences, biotech, telecommunications and defense. Apple already has about 1,000 workers here, not far from UCSD.

Even elite companies like Apple “will find stiff competition for our students,” said Rajesh Gupta, director of UCSD’s Halicioglu Data Science Institute (HDSI). “We have already sent data scientists to companies such as IBM, AT&T, Cisco, Amazon, Microsoft, Thermofisher, Deloitte and ViaSat.” 

There’s an active contingent of UCSD graduates at Apple. At least 3,300 of the school’s alumni work at the company, including 786 in San Diego, according to LinkedIn.

Gupta understands the value of talent. He befriended Taner Halicioglu, a UCSD graduate who earned a fortune helping turn Facebook into a worldwide phenomenon. Halicioglu later returned to UCSD and donated at least $75 million to found the data institute that bears his name.

The institute provides workers in a local market that’s finding it hard to keep up with demand. Shortly before the pandemic hit, there were roughly 3,000 job openings in the San Diego area for software engineers.

The worker shortage could soon become just as big. The economy is rebounding, and Apple is coming to town, which will make the competition even keener.

There could be a domino effect.

“Apple arriving will put a spotlight on the technical skills you can find here,” said Pisano. “Everyone else will say, ‘Hey, wait a minute. Why are they fishing in that pond?’ It’s because the talent is in San Diego.”

(c)2021 The San Diego Union-Tribune. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.