Failing to address the Latino education gap will jeopardize California’s future economic growth. That’s the opinion of many, including Assemblyman Jose Medina (D-Riverside). Given the rapidly changing demographics of the workforce, California must invest in creating pathways to higher education that ensure Latino student success.
Knowledge-based industries comprise an increasingly greater share of California’s economic base, fueling a rise in the demand for highly educated workers. This shift poses a major economic challenge for California, which leads the nation with the highest number of adults (20 percent) without a high school diploma or equivalent. Economic growth hinges largely on improving levels of educational attainment among the state’s current and future workforce.
California’s working-age population, those 18-64, is majority minority. Latinos currently make up more than a third of these 24 million adults and are predicted to make up more than half by mid-century as a greater number of Latino youth enter the workforce each year.
Unfortunately, the demand for highly educated workers is far outpacing the rise in Latino college-completion rates, which has major implications for the future strength and sustainability of California’s economy.
Although college enrollment among Hispanics is on the rise, just 14 percent of working-age Latinos in California have earned an associate’s degree or higher, according to a recent report released by the Campaign for College Opportunity. As a result, by 2025, California faces an estimated shortage of 2.3 million college educated workers.
Reforming our education system to ensure the state’s youth acquire the skills and education needed to meet projected workforce demands can’t wait. It is critical that California K-12 schools create a stronger higher education pipeline aligned with regional industry needs.
The California Economic Summit is already working towards boosting the state’s workforce through public-private collaboration as part of its seven Signature Initiatives created at last year’s Summit and advanced across the state.