California’s unemployment rate has remained stubborn. (Photo Credit: jronaldlee)
The news is out—it’s not good but it’s not bad either. According to the UCLA Anderson Forecast, California’s unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.8 percent in January.
UCLA Anderson Forecast Economists believe the Golden State was definitely feeling the pinch of a nationwide payroll tax increase as well as a state-implemented bump in sales tax and income tax on wealthy individuals from Proposition 30.
Prop 30, passed by voters in November 2012, promises to restore $6 billion of budget cuts to K-13 and higher education schools that would have taken effect in January.
Months after its passage, does the hope remain the same?
Leading economists have preached the need to dramatically increase the number of college-educated workers to remain globally competitive. According to the state’s Workforce Investment Board, nine out of 10 skilled jobs, in the next decade, will require college training.
Community colleges have played a key role in retraining unemployed workers for new jobs or helping students earn a degree or transfer to a four-year institution therefore community colleges have been a key part in the state’s economic recovery.
“Universities, public and private, community colleges, job training programs, and workforce investment boards need to find a way, or several ways to reverse this ever widening chasm. A critical, painful and long overdue process needs to happen within our education system,” said Roseanne Foust, President and CEO of the San Mateo Economic Development Association.
For businesses up and down the state, Prop 30 could represent a way to close in on the skills gap because schools will be forced to change, to meet industry needs.
“There is not a meeting, conference or roundtable that happens in California without discussion on the widening gap between jobs available and the skilled workforce needed to fill these jobs,” said Foust. “The skills gap is at all levels from high tech to low tech, to service and vocational education.”
While the increased school funding from Prop 30 doesn’t specifically address the skills gap, David Rattray, senior vice president of education and workforce development of the L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce, said the chance to improve learning outcomes and put in place the Common Core standards and the state’s Linked Learning program will have an effect.
“I think it’s continuing to advance Linked Learning that builds better alignment between what kids learn and how they apply it,” said Rattray. “I think our whole student success agenda at the secondary level to better align student outcomes with the way we fund and the way we run our universities–those are the things that are going to close the skills gap.”
Economists with UCLA’s Anderson Forecast say California’s outlook is looking better. The unemployment rate is expected to average 9.6 percent in 2013, 8.4 percent in 2014 and 7.2 percent in 2015.
Foust believes Prop 30 is the right investment that can restore the state’s economy, revive the California dream and help the Golden State shine bright again.
“The conversation needs to start and finish with everyone at the table: business, labor, elected leaders, educators, non-profits and community members. Continuing along the same path, instead of using Prop 30 funds to meet workforce skills challenge will be a missed opportunity for all of us and a choice that we will regret in the not too distant future,” said Foust.