A region’s economic competitiveness, growth and vitality are intrinsically tied to educational attainment and the quality of its workforce. Our region’s ability to meet its educational and workforce challenges will define how successfully we can identify current and future needs of existing and anticipated employers, support and adjust our available technical education programs, and produce college and career-ready students. Our
region’s low college attendance and completion rates constitutes a fundamental weakness in our economic infrastructure and is an indicator of regional economic vulnerability.
There is a correlation between higher levels of education and higher earnings for all demographic groups and for both men and women. Higher levels of education correspond to lower unemployment and poverty rates. In addition to differences in income, college graduates are less likely to be unemployed than high school graduates and enjoy significantly greater rates of workforce participation. Adults with higher education, contributing to tax revenues, are less likely to depend on social safety-net programs, generating decreased demand on public budgets.
The Inland Empire’s challenges in education and workforce are threefold: On one end our region faces a challenge to replenish its workforce; the second is our region faces low educational attainments; and the last component is two-part; our region’s population is almost half Latinos, who have the lowest educational rates, and the Latinos in the region also have the largest component of students in the K-12 system.
Given the challenges facing our region, we should focus improving the entire education pipeline, from Preschool to Graduate Studies (P-20) so that students are college- and career-ready and improve our regional post graduate completion rates. Our region should also focus on providing opportunities for our non-college educated residents through improved workforce training. The growth in the logistics economy and supplying its needs should also be complemented by an expansion of support for more technical fields in the sciences and allied fields.
There are a few key factors our region should focus on. One will be working with current businesses, and anticipated industries, to determine the current and future skill sets they need. This information can then be provided to the education community in order to begin adapting their programs to these requirements. The information from businesses will be essential to providing the educators with the ability to create degrees and certifications of value to the employer community.
An additional component of this effort is to encourage state efforts of career-technical education (CTE) programs, and integrating CTE into traditional K-12 education. CTE has the ability to provide students with the skill sets integral to their career success. At the same time, CTE can provide students with a relevant and rigorous education which encourages their participation in school. This relevance will help to reverse the high drop-out rates at our regional high schools.
Another focus should be to support and sustain initiatives aimed at Science, Technologies, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education. The continued growth in the engineering, research, medical, and other advanced fields that we have experienced can only be sustained by support initiatives oriented at meeting this need in our region. Graduates in this field yield a large return on investment with higher high school and college graduate rates. Integrated strategies in STEM can also assist engaging women and underrepresented minorities to strengthen pathways into STEM careers. STEM education also provides our region with a much needed skilled workforce.
Part of our efforts should not only be to build our own skilled workforce but also to attract a skilled workforce. A high-skill worker attracts new capital, new talent, new industry, and are critical for strengthening the tax base. Our regional effort to sustain STEM is one way to attract employers and employees, but we must also address an integrated effort to improve our region’s quality of life which is a key component in attracting and retaining a skilled workforce.
The Inland Empire’s local business community needs to participate in regional efforts to provide information to colleges and universities so they can graduate a workforce that meets their needs. Additionally, businesses must also play an active role to provide educational assistance such as integrated internship programs for real on-the-job experience which will also assist to replenish the out-going workforce.
The Inland Empire Economic Partnership (IEEP) Supports:
K-12: Early Education through High School
• Developing Educational Partnerships between the K-12 Districts and Higher Education Institutions
• Strengthening Alignment between High School Curriculum and College Admittance Requirements by supporting legislation and policies that assist in this goal
• Increase the number, rate, and diversity of undergraduates in STEM disciplines and include STEM in K-12 education curriculum
• Increasing Parental and Community Engagement for student success by developing, identifying or supporting strategies in our region to support parents and students with the goal to increase educational attainment levels out of high school and higher institutions
Higher Education: Four Year Institutions & Community Colleges
• Addressing college affordability and increase access to higher education by supporting state and federal policies and legislation that will not hinder access to funding
• Increasing the state’s and region’s focus on improving and promoting Career and Technical Education
Partnerships: Education Institutions & Industry
• Increased coordination and collaborative efforts with community colleges and four-year higher education institutions to align curriculum and programs for identified workforce needed to support economic development and sustainability in the region
• Increased state and federal support for Workforce training initiatives and programs
• Identify roles and responsibilities for academic, industry, and government organizations in studying, advancing, and evaluating comprehensive and systemic reform in STEM education and workforce development, recruitment, placement, and retention
• Linking efforts to maintain and improve the quality of life in the Inland Empire to attract and retain our human capital