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Orange County

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OC COE shares findings on the changing workforce with region

The Orange County Center of Excellence (COE) team recently attended The Council for Community and Economic Research’s The Future: Communities, Data, and Work Summit held in Arlington, Virginia, and applied information gleaned from the summit to regional discussions examining the changing workforce. 

The three-day conference in Virginia included a number of keynote speakers and break-out sessions covering major trends affecting workplaces, workforces, and industries. Two keynotes, in particular, stood out as directly informative to career education programs (CE) offered by the California Community Colleges: 

  • “What Does the Next 10 Years Hold for the U.S. Workforce?” presented by Michael Wolf, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) division chief 
  • “The Future of Work and the Reality of Jobs, Skills, Education, and Training” presented by Dr. Chauncy Lennon, vice president for learning and work at the Lumina Foundation

Mr. Wolf’s presentation focused on nationwide projections from 2021 to 2031 covering 832 occupations and 295 industries. BLS anticipates a decline in both population and labor force over that time period. However, Hispanics make up a growing share of the labor force, accounting for almost all labor force growth. In addition, small increases in economic growth and productivity are expected. While these increases are larger than in recent years, they are in line with historical trends. 

Nationally, the leisure and hospitality industry is projected to mostly recover from the pandemic and expand in some areas. However, the retail trade industry has the largest projected employment decline, continuing a trend that began before the pandemic. Part of this decline is due to a contracting  labor force, which will not be large enough to support growth similar to that of the past.

Mr. Wolf highlighted BLS research that shows occupations that typically require more education for entry are projected to grow faster than those that require less education. All occupations are projected to grow by 5.3%. By comparison, occupations requiring an associate degree have a higher projected growth rate, 8.8%, and those requiring a postsecondary degree are projected to grow by 6.7%.

Dr. Lennon’s presentation focused on the impacts of automation and artificial intelligence on the workforce. He shared that the Lumina Foundation’s research has shown that while advances in technology and the “Uberization of jobs” have affected the workforce, this has not been as pervasive as originally projected. Full-time gig workers comprise less than half a percent of the workforce. 

Dr. Lennon shared a U.S. Department of Labor chart that showed skills are shifting within occupations over time, rather than actual jobs being automated out of existence. Furthermore, almost all jobs are experiencing some kind of skill shift due to technology. Dr. Lennon stated that data confirms only having a random credential or certificate will not necessarily get someone employed. He cautioned educators that one-third of graduates do not pursue a credential, that credentialing is not a one-and-done experience, that credentials do not necessarily represent opportunity, and that the connection between the credential/certificate and which industry it is in is often more important than the overall time spent in education. He reminded educators to align certificates with the skills and knowledge that are actually being requested by industry and not what makes the most sense for the education system.

The OC COE team shared this data during a large regional convening and also conducted a deep-dive with the region’s CTE deans that incorporated slides and raw data and explored implications for the region. Together, the OC COE and CTE deans collaborated on how best to use this information to improve our CE programs and student outcomes.