Talking workforce development with Civic Hall’s Andrew Rasiej

Andrew Rasiej, founder and CEO of Civic Hall.
Andrew Rasiej, founder and CEO of Civic Hall.
CIVIC HALL
Andrew Rasiej, founder and CEO of Civic Hall.

Talking workforce development with Civic Hall’s Andrew Rasiej

A conversation with founder and CEO of Civic Hall.
December 18, 2019

In a new recurring feature, First Read Tech will be talking to leaders in government and technology about the intersection of the two fields and how New York can lead through innovation. Today’s interview is with Andrew Rasiej, founder and CEO of Civic Hall.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

You call Civic Hall a “civic center for technology for the public good” and your members include tech companies, nonprofits and government agencies. What is the goal of your new project, Civic Hall @ Union Square, a space with a focus on digital skills training and underserved populations?

Civic Hall isn’t going to be a workforce development trainer itself; we’re going to be running a facility that will have about 16 classrooms, which will be shared by all of these workforce development organizations that are already touching these populations. Per Scholas, Pursuit, the computer science for all (CS4All) initiative, which trains teachers, for example. The goal of Civic Hall is to become a kind of center-of-gravity hub for these various organizations that do touch these populations and then give them the efficiency of working together under one roof. 

Civic Hall recently released a report highlighting an opportunity gap in workforce development – what’s the main takeaway from that?

In gathering information about why a center like ours should exist and what it could do, and how having a center of gravity around digital skills training might be beneficial to dozens of organizations and to New Yorkers as a whole, we discovered – we kind of knew this anyway but we wanted to do the research – that there are major gaps in the kind of training that’s being done and the types of jobs that employers are looking to hire for. 

What kinds of gaps?

Coding was like the training du jour three or four years ago. It’s sort of not the case anymore. It’s moved to data science, AI, cybersecurity and other types of technologies, where the employers are now looking to have more employees that are more generalists and can adapt and can be upskilled or easily re-trained, rather than just one type of talent in one person. 

You have long touted the virtues of New York as a tech hub, an alternative to Silicon Valley. Do you still see resistance to that idea?

(The idea) that New York wasn’t up to par, that New York isn’t a great city for tech – that argument is over. In fact, now that Silicon Valley has a black eye because of all the negative effects of technology, New York has an important new leadership role to basically leverage its long history of nonprofit activity, its diverse population, and its diverse industries, and lead the next wave of technology in the future in a different direction than Silicon Valley has for the last 20 years. I don’t know of a city anywhere in the country that’s putting its money where its mouth is by creating a facility like Civic Hall in the heart of the tech community – and that’s just one example. 

For the rest of today's tech news, head over to First Read Tech.

Annie McDonough
Annie McDonough
is a tech and policy reporter at City & State.
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