Louis Freedberg
A display at Carr Intermediate School in Santa Unified which is promoting a college-going culture

In just 15 years – by 2030 – the state will face a shortfall of about 1.1 million college graduates needed to fill a range of jobs in California, creating a substantial “workforce skills gap,” according to a new report from the Public Policy Institute of California.

The report, titled Will California Run Out of College Graduates?noted that California continues to attract highly educated immigrants with college degrees, especially to technology fields. But this influx will not be large enough to offset the expected retirement of Baby Boomers with far higher rates of postsecondary degrees than younger workers. While at least 38 percent of all jobs are expected to require a bachelor’s degree in 2030, the report’s authors estimate that only 33 percent of the state’s workforce will have four-year college degrees in 15 years.

“No matter what period we use to develop our projections, we find a large deficit in the supply of workers holding at least a bachelor’s degree, ranging from about 1 million to 1.4 million,” PPIC’s Hans Johnson and fellow researchers predicted.

At a panel discussion in Sacramento on Wednesday, CSU Chancellor Timothy White said the report presented a call to action. “We’re facing two droughts in California,” he said. “The first is water and the second is a bachelor’s degree deficit.”

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said higher education institutions are on a “collision course with the future” as the industrial age gives way to a new age of technology. He said the state must look at radically reforming the higher education system in response to “one of the greatest economic transformations in our history.”

Among other proposals, Newsom, who has announced he will be running to succeed Gov. Brown in 2018, called for a new higher education plan with clearly stated measurable goals, focused on California’s economic needs. He also said colleges and universities need to take a hard look at their course offerings to determine whether they meet the state’s workforce development needs.

The report comes against the backdrop of recent reforms in California and nationally, including the Common Core State Standards, whose goal is to produce high school graduates ready for college and careers, and to link the high school curriculum to specific career pathways.

Other reforms, like the Student Success Initiative at the California Community Colleges, are intended to improve student completion and graduation rates. The report did not refer to those reforms, and it is too soon to know whether they will change the rather bleak trajectory outlined in the report.

Eloy Ortiz Oakley, superintendent-president of the Long Beach Community College District, said the community college system also realizes it must “fundamentally and systematically change.” “We’ve done a wonderful job in this state of creating access, but that access really has no exit point,” he said, referring to the large number of students who never complete their intended course of study. “We almost need a revolution in our system.” The state’s higher education systems, he said, need to “redefine” their missions.

The report’s recommendations include better preparing K-12 students for college, improving college completion rates, expanding the number of transfers from community colleges to four-year colleges, revamping grant and financial aid to cover costs other than tuition for low-income and some middle-income students, and increasing Cal Grants for students who attend private colleges with high graduation rates and low rates of student loan defaults.

Efforts are already underway on several of these fronts, but the report pointed to some new ones. One would be to “provide fiscal incentives to colleges for increasing the share of students taking a full load (15 units)…. Much could be learned from the private, nonprofit colleges in the state, which have high four-year completion rates.”

Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, R-Dublin, agreed with other panelists that the report presents a grim picture if changes are not made to address the workforce skills gap. Baker said even now, the higher education system is not meeting California’s need for a skilled workforce, which is evidenced by its reliance on immigrants to fill high-tech and other jobs.

The reforms need to start in the K-12 system, which is not yet adequately preparing students for college and careers, Baker said. “Higher education is dramatically impacted by K-12,” she said. “The report doesn’t go into that detail and (doesn’t) acknowledge with a loud megaphone that K-12 drastically needs to be addressed.”

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  1. Harold Mozell 2 years ago2 years ago

    As I see it, a lot of students are realizing that their Bachelor’s degree is not helping them get a higher income. It’s becoming “just a piece of paper”, so to speak. The Huntington Beach Adult School, where I am employed, is addressing this problem by offering work force skill classes such as Medical Technology, Pharmacy Tech., etc., as well as a variety of Computer Classes.

  2. Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

    From the article above: "Much could be learned from the private, nonprofit colleges in the state, which have high four-year completion rates.” Interesting stement. Could it be that the demographics of students attending the CSU system or UC system have different demographics that those attending the private sector colleges? It is well known that both the CSU and UC systems have narrowed class choices over the years because of budget cuts. Narrowed choices mean students have difficulty … Read More

    From the article above:

    “Much could be learned from the private, nonprofit colleges in the state, which have high four-year completion rates.”

    Interesting stement. Could it be that the demographics of students attending the CSU system or UC system have different demographics that those attending the private sector colleges? It is well known that both the CSU and UC systems have narrowed class choices over the years because of budget cuts. Narrowed choices mean students have difficulty creating a class schedule that will accommodate graduation requirements within a four year framework. Also, because of rising costs, students often have to carry a time consuming work schedule to afford to stay in school. Attendees at private universities, who may well be more affluent than the public system students, may not have these same challenges.

    Recently EdSource ran an editorial around the topic of how difficult it is to create a “college and career” school curriculum. The college part was relatively easy, but the career part relatively hard because it is hard to narrow down the skills needed in the contemporary work world, let alone the work world of the future. It is difficult to imagine how a report of this kind would not have some of the same problems. This leaves out the entire question of the intent of higher ed. Is it to spreads knowledge and learning, or is it to act as a farm team for industry? The conventional wisdom on this, focused as it is on the economic consequences of various educational policies, seems very narrow.

    The one metric that seems to be worthy of serious consideration is the retirement of the “boomers” and replacements necessary to fill those slots. It certainly is a worthy question in education. Maybe the severe cuts to the CSU and UC systems, as well as the K-12 system, because of an insufficient state revenue stream will come back to bite us in the end.

  3. Quentin Wilson 2 years ago2 years ago

    To get better results, our priorities need to shift to starting our education advancement efforts earlier (careerandcollegeclubs.org) and persisting with them longer (educatedrooster.org).

  4. Bruce William Smith 2 years ago2 years ago

    Secondary education is what needs drastic revision in California and elsewhere in the United States, and the Common Core represents an inadequate approach to what is required, largely because of its weak mathematical standards. I agree that we should be applying what has been shown to work elsewhere; foreign jurisdictions of a size comparable to American states with leading education systems include those of Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland. Taking this last as exemplary, … Read More

    Secondary education is what needs drastic revision in California and elsewhere in the United States, and the Common Core represents an inadequate approach to what is required, largely because of its weak mathematical standards. I agree that we should be applying what has been shown to work elsewhere; foreign jurisdictions of a size comparable to American states with leading education systems include those of Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland. Taking this last as exemplary, you will not find “college and career ready standards” through the 12th grade; after nine years, paths diverge, generally between university preparation and, for the majority, a dual system of continued general education and specific training for, as elsewhere in the German-speaking world, nearly 400 specific, named occupations, each with its own specific training requirements. This is how to reduce both youth unemployment and the college dropout rate to some of the world’s best levels, instead of some of the world’s worst levels, which can be found, unfortunately, here in California.

  5. dormand 2 years ago2 years ago

    Well managed educational organizations would address this identified threat by researching the most effective means of developing the State's human capital resources, then implementing those most effective means so as to meet the State's requirements. I submit that the most effective available means of developing human capital resources into individuals capable of critical thinking, analytical thinking, and the ability to clearly and concisely communicating the results to others is the proven processes developed over thirty years … Read More

    Well managed educational organizations would address this identified threat by researching the most effective means of developing the State’s human capital resources, then implementing those most effective means so as to meet the State’s requirements.

    I submit that the most effective available means of developing human capital resources into individuals capable of critical thinking, analytical thinking, and the ability to clearly and concisely communicating the results to others is the proven processes developed over thirty years in the groundbreaking Hobart Shakespearean program implemented by Renaissance Man Rafe Esquith.

    Out of an area consisting of the most impoverished families in the country, Rafe’s kids in Room 56 learned how to work hard and to be nice and developed unequaled work ethics that enabled them to graduate from the nation’s top colleges, including one who was top in her class at Brown University.

    We are losing too many due to outmoded processes and thus have too many school dropouts, many of whom end up as burdens to society as prison inmates.

    If we want to address this dire problem, the ideal and pragmatic solution is to widely emulate the winning Hobart Shakespearean formula.

    It works.

  6. CarolineSF 2 years ago2 years ago

    There’s a lot of discussion about whether the “reliance on immigrants to fill high-tech and other jobs” is due to the frequent ability to pay immigrants less rather than a shortage of qualified Americans. Many voices say that’s the case.