PATERSON, NJ - When city officials in Los Angeles started to recognize a widening gap between available jobs and training opportunities in the construction industry they took a big data approach to find solutions.

Community colleges weren’t yet teaching the digital skills necessary for new workers to enter the job market, Harsha Mallajoysula, then the city’s senior data scientist, told TAPinto Paterson. The end result was reinvigorated efforts to bring academia, local government, and the construction industry to solve the jobs mismatch through new training initiatives.

Analyzing the future of work, how the economy is going to change in the coming years, and ensuring that “communities that may otherwise be left behind,” are provided the workforce support they need, is just one of the issues Mallajoysula will attempt to tack on his new role in Paterson.

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At a city hall press conference on Thursday Mayor Andre Sayegh officially announced the addition of Mallajoysula to the grant funded, Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative inspired, Innovation Team.

“As Mayor Bloomberg is known to say, ‘In God we trust. Everyone else bring data,’” Sayegh quipped at the outset, adding that the work of the nascent Innovation Team, which also includes Edward Boze as the chief innovation officer, will recast the nation’s first industrial community, one built on innovation into a 21st century model city.

As previously reported, while the team will work in Paterson City Hall and report directly to Sayegh and Chief of Staff Kathleen Long, the three-year, $750,000 initiative will be funded fully by a grant from The Henry and Marilyn Taub Foundation to the Passaic County College Foundation. 

Once again all three partners were represented at the city hall event with Passaic County College President Steven Rose acknowledging that “there are no simple solutions to complex problems.”

However, he added expressing the college’s excitement at being involved in the initiative, they see the opportunity to “use big data to make sophisticated decisions.”

For Barbara Lawrence, on behalf of the Taub Foundation, the anticipated results of having the Innovation Team in place is even more straightforward: to make long term improvement that make Paterson an even better place to live and work.

Saying that local governments are the “centers of innovation and excellence,” Mallajoysula spoke of his 14 years of experience working with a variety of Silicon Valley startups, non-profits, and local government, and perhaps channeled his inner poet when he referred to Paterson as a “city of immigrants and dreamers.”

“Data in itself is not a cure all; it has biases and imperfections,” Mallajoysula cautioned. “However when it is married with qualitative insights, real experiences from Patersonians, it can truly transform local government.”

It’s Mallajoysula’s shared confidence with Sayegh that data can make an impact that also got Katie Appel Duda’s attention. Bloomberg Philanthropies, Duda said, knows that “investments in data and innovation pay important dividends for cities and their residents.”

“This is a culmination of a vision” Sayegh concluded. “This is where we want to go as a city.”

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