Leadership Long Beach

Investment In Human Capital Can Close The Skills Gap

By Uduak Ntuk, Petroleum Engineering Associate | City of Long Beach

June 3rd, 2013 – At a recent economic forecast presented by Kimberly Ritter, a leading economist with the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation, she shared data on why she’s so optimistic that it is finally time to put the recession behind us.

National unemployment is at a five-year low, last month’s jobs report was revised up 28 percent and there are no significant signs of inflation. Despite these strong signs of a recovery, she highlighted an unfortunate trend that workers have not shared in the economic growth even as their productivity has increased. Ritter posed an interesting question: How do we grow our economy while ensuring that workers share in the gains as we transition into a more service-based and technology-based economy?

The professional and scientific jobs sectors are expected to grow by 4.4 percent in the coming years, yet there are not enough qualified people for these jobs. In other words, there’s a “skills gap.” At each level of education (associates, bachelors, masters, etc.) there are not enough local people with technical degrees for the number of job available.

It’s hard to imagine in this post-recession period that there are high paying, quality jobs, but we can’t seem to find enough eligible people to work them. This education and workforce development deficit is in need of real leadership. Imagine if we doubled the number of students going into technical career paths. What if Long Beach became the epicenter for a regional clean tech cluster? I think we need a citywide vision to reduce our unemployment rate that puts residents into those good jobs.

We have to redesign and invest in our local education systems. Research shows that one additional schooling year will increase one’s annual wages by 10 percent. Higher skilled workers who share in the economic prosperity can contribute to a growing tax base, increase home values and decrease crime rates in our neighborhoods.

I am reminded that our community success is interdependent. Success happens when we invest in technical education that enhances our human capital.

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(Founded in 1989, Leadership Long Beach offers principled leadership programs by educating and engaging adult and youth leaders on issues important to the city’s future and sustainability.

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