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Link2Downtown: A New Initiative to Retain Talent from San Diego Universities

Over 30 UC San Diego computer science engineers visited Underground Elephant’s new offices as part of an exciting new initiative to strengthen ties between local universities and Downtown’s fast-growing technology companies.

Training, retaining, and attracting highly-skilled talent is critical to the growth of any innovation economy. In San Diego we do a great job training students at our exceptional universities, but as a region we can do a better job retaining them in our economy. With Link2Downtown, the Downtown San Diego Partnership and the San Diego Economic Development Corporation are working to maximize our region’s ability to both train and retain talent by taking students on tours to visit and connect with Downtown San Diego’s fast-growing technology companies. For this inaugural Link2Downtown trip, UC San Diego computer science engineering students visited EvoNexus, Classy, Sweetlabs, and Underground Elephant’s new office followed by a networking happy hour over at Stella Public House in East Village.

Interestingly, one of the biggest hurdles to overcome is a perception problem. Outside well-known names and industries, many of San Diego’s college students are unaware of local professional opportunities, especially amidst the rapid economic transformation underway Downtown. As a UC San Diego alum myself, I too was oblivious to the economic transformation that was taking place while studying. And many of the UC San Diego students I met had no idea that Downtown has a bustling tech and startup ecosystem hungry for top talent in a cool, walkable environment. Moreover, in fields such as computer science, professional interest quickly gravitates north to Silicon Valley without even considering a local career path. Many students told me that Link2Downtown was the best event they’ve participated in since they started at UC San Diego, and I think it was because it painted a picture of a vibrant career path here in San Diego that they thought wasn’t even an option.

These recent developments are not for lack of trying in the past. Downtown companies and community leaders have been visiting local campuses to speak on panels, host career fairs, and attend networking events for years. But the eureka moments for these students often only occur when they actually visit Downtown to meet local entrepreneurs, to see the density of technology companies, and to experience the creative buzz in the community. As it turns out, the old adage holds true for the connection between our bright students and Downtown San Diego’s economic transformation: seeing really is believing.

From increasing job shadowing and internships opportunities to engineering more formal large-scale tours and a dedicated trolley stop by UC San Diego, San Diego and its local businesses can and should be doing more to get current students and recent graduates connected to their Downtown economy. However, with initiatives like Link2Downtown (and the overwhelming support it generated among local organizations and entrepreneurs), it looks like there is good reason to be optimistic.

To learn more about San Diego’s Link2Downtown initiative as well as Underground Elephant’s role, you can read a recent article by titled, Link2Downtown: What SD is Really Doing to Retain Young Talent.


Photo provided by the Downtown San Diego Partnership

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