The future growth of any economy hinges on the availability of a robust pipeline of well-educated young workers to replenish and revitalize an aging workforce. As the baby boomer generation retires, California’s economic health will depend on the capability of the state’s youth, the majority of who are Latino, to plug the holes created in the workforce. Making sure young Latinos get the skills and education required to replace exiting workers is vital to California’s economic strength and sustainability.
“The states future economic outcomes and prosperity are really centered on our success with our young people and with Latinos in particular,” said Max Espinoza, senior advisor on higher education to Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, at a recent event organized by Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE), a nonpartisan organization dedicated to the political and economic advancement of Latinas.
But California’s rapidly changing demographics is a double-edged sword.
Given the youthfulness of California’s Latino community, while other states struggle with aging populations, California’s workforce will remain one of the youngest in the nation as Latinos constitute an increasingly larger percentage of the working-age population. However, the level of educational attainment among Latinos remains well below that of their peers and the state’s retirees, leaving many ill-equipped to succeed in California’s knowledge economy.
Knowledge-based industries, which require at least a bachelor’s degree to enter, comprise a growing share of the state’s economy. But while nearly half of California’s college-age population (18-24) are Latino, less than 10 percent of Latinos older than 25 have graduated from a university.
As a result, California faces an estimated shortage of one million college educated workers by the year 2025.
“Given the demographics of the state,” said Espinoza, “higher education is critical for Latinas and Latinos. It’s really important that we ensure they have equal access to higher education and that they have success while in higher education so they graduate.”