Philanthropic Ventures Foundation            Progress Newsletter  -  August 2014
On-Ramps to Silicon Valley: East Palo Alto

Guest post by: Jackie Speier, U.S. Representative, 12th District of California and Board Member of Philanthropic Ventures Foundation    


More and more communities are feeling the glow of renewed job growth. Just glance at the skyline and you see cranes on the horizon in San Francisco and many Peninsula cities. At a recent university graduation ceremony, the Dean of the engineering school noted that, nationally, the unemployment rate for engineers is 2%.   

Congresswoman Jackie Speier meeting with East Palo Alto community and business leaders to brainstorm job creation strategies.


In East Palo Alto, a city that I have the honor to represent in the U.S. Congress, the residents need more on-ramps to Silicon Valley's economy. As the nation approaches full employment and San Mateo County has 5% unemployment, the rate in East Palo Alto is over double that level. Median household income in East Palo Alto is 55% of the countywide median. Adjusted for inflation, 2010 median household income was 20% lower than in 2000.


On April 24th, sixty community and business leaders met with me to offer their ideas about how to create jobs for East Palo Alto residents. This was an old-fashioned brainstorming session that generated over two dozen great ideas. 


For example, the local job training nonprofit, JobTrain, will be taking its lead from hospitals and medical practices as it redesigns its training program for medical assistants. It will determine if a long-standing program to train manufacturing employees can be expanded.


There can be a disconnect between employers and potential employees. LinkedIn suggested that every person searching for a job should receive help with setting up a LinkedIn profile. 


One way to provide an on-ramp to higher-paying jobs is for young people to be offered internships with major employers. Whether as high school or college students, young people gain valuable experience that can be listed on their résumés. We will be determining if local companies can create these internships.


The most daunting problem is the mismatch between the jobs being created locally and the skills of the community, a challenge replicated in many communities in the US. This is why I asked the community college and high school district to attend and to collaborate on solutions. There is serious discussion of a new, small high school for East Palo Alto to allow students to earn two years of college credit by the time they complete high school.  The curriculum would be heavily focused on computer science. 


The time to close the opportunity gap is now, but the tools to close the gap have yet to be created.  By involving community leaders and their expertise, I am hopeful about East Palo Alto. Its leadership is talented and its residents hard working. Today, as the economy continues its recovery, we need to ensure that on-ramps to the Silicon Valley economy exist for everyone.


By: Bill Somerville, President & CEO


I recently visited the Sequoia Adult School Scholars (SASS) program, which provides financial assistance to ESL students in the Sequoia District Adult School in order to help them expand their career options. Philanthropic Ventures Foundation provided a $10,000 grant to support SASS's scholarship program.


Recipients of scholarships from Sequoia Adult School Scholars meet with donor Bill Somerville. All of these students completed the ESL program at Sequoia Adult School and now attend Canada College.
PVF In the News
PVF's Executive Director, James Higa, was recently profiled in Gentry's new magazine focusing on tech, SV. The in-depth article, which can be found on our website, focuses on the work James is doing to reinvent philanthropy through radical collaboration.
About PVF
PVF is a demonstration foundation practicing unique forms of grantmaking and innovative philanthropy. Our primary interest is in the creative and significant use of the philanthropic dollar.
About the Editors
James Higa
Executive Director
Bill Somerville

James Higa brings 28 years of executive experience from Silicon Valley, working with Steve Jobs to change the face of technology. He was at the birth of the personal computer revolution as a member of the original Macintosh team and was deeply involved in the creation of many products and services at Apple over 3 decades. He has a long history of public service as a board member of Stanford's Haas Center and in grassroots relief efforts.
Bill Somerville has been in non-profit and philanthropic work for 50 years. He was the director of a community foundation for 17 years, and in 1991 founded Philanthropic Ventures Foundation where he serves as President. Bill has consulted at over 400 community foundations, on creative grantmaking and foundation operations. Bill is the author of Grassroots Philanthropy: Field Notes of a Maverick Grantmaker.

  Facebook Badge