San Diego Business Journal

Qualcomm Inc. used to keep its San Diego local employment number close to its corporate vest, but a recent report on the region’s largest private employer said it has nearly 12,000 workers based here, or more than half of its 21,000 global workforce.

“It was good to get a hard number on Qualcomm’s employment because in the past they were somewhat secretive about it,” said Kelly Cunningham, economist with National University System Institute for Policy Research, one of three groups engaged for the study called “The Economic Impact of Qualcomm.”

$4.53 Billion Impact

The study was done for the San Diego Workforce Partnership, the local job training agency, and the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp., and cost $49,000.

Besides Qualcomm’s local staff count of 11,775 full-time and part-time workers, the report said the company’s annual payroll is $1.2 billion. When counting all the indirect jobs linked to the direct ones at Qualcomm, the technology giant has a total impact of $4.53 billion on the local economy, or 2.6 percent of San Diego’s gross regional product in 2010.

Founded in 1985, Qualcomm makes chips contained in many mobile devices. It’s also the developer of the wireless communication system the devices use, and collects royalties on every device that uses that technology called CDMA. For its last fiscal year, it reported total revenue of $19 billion, compared with nearly $11 billion in FY 2010.

The report said Qualcomm’s economic impact equaled one and a half times the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Among other key findings in the report:

• Nearly one in three workers in San Diego’s telecommunications sector works for Qualcomm.

• Counting direct, indirect, and induced employment, Qualcomm supports 27,365 jobs in the region that pay an average annual salary of $70,000.

• Every job at Qualcomm generates about 2.3 jobs in the region, and every dollar generated from Qualcomm results in $2 of economic activity in the region.

• San Diego’s telecommunications and information technology sectors have some 2,000 businesses and account for about 65,000 jobs.

• The average salary for San Diego’s telecom employees is $108,050, exceeded only by San Jose among four other high-tech cities that were surveyed.

Kevin Carroll, executive vice president of Connect, a nonprofit that helps small technology firms, said the study will provide a better appreciation of the size and importance of the telecom and IT industries to this economy.

“It clearly shows that the economic engine of the region is technology,” Carroll said. “This gives all of us, including elected officials, a lot to think about in terms of what type of things they’re putting in place to encourage innovation companies.”

Finding the Workforce

The report also underscores an ongoing dilemma for the telecom and IT industries, namely their difficulty in finding the qualified workers that they need to continue growing.

The report found that 58 percent of the companies in the two sectors said they had “some difficulty” finding qualified applicants for non-entry-level positions. More than a quarter of those surveyed said they were having “great difficulty” finding the right people.

Tina Ngo, research manager for the San Diego Workforce Partnership, said the report reveals actual numbers and responses to what was heretofore anecdotal information about the size of both Qualcomm, and the telecom and IT industries here.

Now that the agency has this data, it can proceed with plans to set up job training programs to help funnel workers into the skilled positions that these companies are creating, she said.

Currently, SDWP, which has an annual budget of $32 million this year, provides funding for on-the-job training programs with individual employers, but more comprehensive programs may be in the works, Ngo said.

Plans to Increase Staffing

The report found that about half of the telecom and IT employers expect to increase their staffing over the next year, while 42 percent plan to maintain their current staffing levels. The estimated employment increase by the sectors over the year was 5,000 workers, the report stated.

While most jobs being created within these sectors require a four-year degree, there were some entry-level positions that do not, the report said.

Job seekers interested in these growing fields should know that employers aren’t necessarily focused on hiring people who have very specific technical skills such as a computer programming language. Rather, they want people who are not only competent in certain skills, but can learn new technologies, take on new responsibilities, and are able to communicate well with others, the report stated.