Business and education leaders are going to have to work together to ensure that Southern California has the skilled workforce it needs to maintain its global reputation as the home of innovative business and technology leaders, according to a report recently released by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC) and California State University, Northridge.
The report, “Four-Year Colleges and Universities: Addressing the Knowledge Worker Talent Gap in Southern California,” provides information about the region’s future industrial and highly skilled employment concentrations, forecasts important shifts in Southern California’s post-secondary-relevant job markets and identifies trends within key post-secondary occupational categories to help guide the area’s four-year colleges and universities.
“This report reinforces the truth that our region’s pool of university-prepared talent, which includes tens of thousands of CSUN alumni, drives businesses to locate in Southern California and directly influences the future success of established and emerging industries,” said CSUN President Dianne F. Harrison. “While we look to the future and the region’s recovery from the pandemic, the area’s colleges and their alumni will play vital roles in ensuring Southern California’s economic future. As this report points out, it is incumbent that business and education leaders work together to make certain that that the region has the pool of college-educated workers it needs to keep it on the path to success.”
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, change was constant in the regional economy.
“With the rapid transition toward information- and knowledge-centered work across almost all industries, occupations requiring a bachelor’s degree or higher are expected to experience some of the highest rates of growth, and the most in-demand skills and competencies are a mix of soft skills and analytical abilities, including proficiency with data,” said Shannon Sedgwick, report author and director of LAEDC’s Institute for Applied Economics. “Meeting the workforce needs in high-growth industries, such as health care and engineering, relies upon continuous collaboration between industry and educators, highlighting the importance of the role universities like CSUN will play in ensuring future workers develop an array of skill sets that equip them for success in the rapidly changing workplace.”
The report was commissioned by CSUN’s Tseng College: Graduate, International and Midcareer Education and conducted by LAEDC. No state tax dollars were spent to commission, fund or produce the study.
The report examines the region’s current and future job market, including in the tech industry, health care, manufacturing and 21st-century education industries — as well as the skill sets of current and future workers. It found that “in coming years, it will be increasingly more important for industry to collaborate with educators in creating programs that guarantee students are learning the skills future employers expect.”
“Creating more nimble degree requirements, that allow math and science majors more opportunities to develop soft skills, or students in social sciences to receive increased instruction to develop technical skills, will lead to a more productive and hirable workforce,” the report said.
The industries that show promise in terms of highly skilled jobs include health care; education; professional services in a variety of industries, from accounting to engineering and scientific research; information, which includes technology and entertainment; and manufacturing.
“There is a rapidly increasing competition for talent aligned to the economic sectors that have the greatest potential for significant and sustained economic growth in the years ahead,” said Joyce Feucht-Haviar, dean of CSUN’s Tseng College: Graduate, International and Midcareer Education. “The current pandemic and its impact on former beliefs about working virtually is likely to add to the competition, as economic recovery takes place in a context in which high talent can live anywhere and work anywhere. In that light, the future of the Southern California economy will depend heavily on how effective the region is at educating an increasingly agile, adaptive and proactively innovative, university-prepared workforce in high-demand fields.”
The report noted that education can make all the difference in the success of a business and its employees.
“There is a need for a highly talented, university-prepared workforce; it is a key component of economic growth, diversification, and attracting and holding both new and existing employers with evolving needs that are often engaged nationally and globally,” the report said. “For the university-prepared workforce today, the nature of practice across the career span requires a great deal of versatility and conceptual depth and breadth.”
While much of the data used in the report is pre-pandemic, its authors noted that unemployment is highly correlated with educational attainment.
“The immediate economic effects of COVID-19 have not been equally distributed,” the report said. “Higher-income workers in professional services, management and computer and mathematical occupations were able to make the transition to work remotely. Not only have their jobs been somewhat inoculated, if not protected over the short term, but these households are also likely to have higher saving rates.
“Going forward, workers with low educational attainment who lose their jobs during this global health crisis will find it much more difficult to find new ones in similar sectors decimated by the secondary economic effects of the pandemic,” the report continued. “Increasingly, a bachelor’s degree is a key driver and predictor of joblessness, and going forward it may increasingly determine how many factors, including health outcomes, play out over a person’s lifetime.”