City College of San Francisco’s Ocean Campus, pictured on March 31, 2016. (Ekevara Kitpowsong/Special to S.F. Examiner)

City College of San Francisco’s Ocean Campus, pictured on March 31, 2016. (Ekevara Kitpowsong/Special to S.F. Examiner)

The looming shortage of an educated workforce — and how to avoid it

The economic news coming out of the Bay Area is generally better than the rest of the nation. Unemployment remains at a low 3.4 percent, and the region leads the state in job growth. But that rosy picture masks a serious problem on the horizon: a shortage of workers with post-secondary degrees to fill the jobs being created. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, if current labor market trends persist, the state faces a shortfall of about 1.1 million college graduates by 2030.

California’s higher education system is vital to our economic growth. The problem is that many students who get into college are not graduating. And too many who do graduate often take five or six years to complete what should be a four-year degree program. If we could get more students into and all the way through college in a timelier manner, it would go a long way toward solving the projected shortfall of educated workers.

So how can we do that? The first step is to take a serious look at the millions of dollars and thousands of student hours being spent in remedial education. Of the roughly half a million students entering the CSU and California community college system each year, 70 percent are required to repeat high school courses — in which they earned good grades — in one or more areas. In too many cases, this remedial placement is determined by a single standardized test. There is a growing body of evidence that many students placed in remediation, including those from historically underserved populations, should not be there. And far from improving their chances of success in college, remediation more often has the opposite effect.

There are currently more than 50 pilot programs underway among state community colleges (including our own City College of San Francisco) in which incoming students are being placed based on multiple measures — grade point averages, attendance records and other metrics besides test scores. Educational Results Partnership is compiling and analyzing data on these programs, and the findings thus far are extremely compelling. Essentially, there is strong evidence that multiple measures are a better predictor of student success in college-level courses than standardized test scores. The evidence also shows that nonremedial placement is having a powerful impact on graduation rates. Students that place out of remediation based on multiple measures are more likely to graduate than those that have to sit through an extra year of high school-level work. Remediation, in fact, is proving to be a disincentive for students to follow through and complete their education.

In the pipeline from kindergarten to the workforce, remediation is a major choke point for which we now appear to have a solution. Reducing the number of students in remedial classes will save millions in taxpayer dollars and student fees and countless hours toward earning a degree. It is now up to the state universities, community colleges and local K-12 school systems to work in much closer collaboration and alignment to make sure students entering the higher education system are properly prepared and appropriately placed.

It is also up to the business community to throw its support behind best practices in education that are proven to produce superior results. A shortage of educated workers to fill demanding jobs is a threat to our economic growth and competitiveness, but it is one we can meet. The solution is sitting in our public school classrooms today.

Lee Blitch is interim president and CEO of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.Chamber of Commerce

Just Posted

The Hotel Whitcomb on Market Street was one of many hotels that took in homeless people as part of The City’s shelter-in-place hotel program during the pandemic.<ins> (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)</ins>
Closing hotels could disconnect hundreds from critical health care services

‘That baseline of humanity and dignity goes a long way’

Pachama, a Bay Area startup, is using technology to study forests and harness the carbon-consuming power of trees. (Courtesy Agustina Perretta/Pachama)
Golden Gate Park visitors may take a survey about options regarding private car access on John F. Kennedy Drive, which has been the subject of controversy during the pandemic.<ins> (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Your chance to weigh in: Should JFK remain closed to cars?

Host of mobility improvements for Golden Gate Park proposed

Dreamforce returned to San Francisco in person this week – but with a tiny sliver of past attendance. (Courtesy Salesforce)
Dreamforce returns with hundreds on hand, down from 170,000 in the past

High hopes for a larger Salesforce conference shriveled during the summer

“Radiant Fugitives” by Nawaaz Ahmed is a poignant family tragedy. (Courtesy photo)
“Radiant Fugitives” by Nawaaz Ahmed is a poignant family tragedy. (Courtesy photo)
‘Radiant Fugitives’ explores ties that bind, and divide, a Muslim family

Nawaaz Ahmed’s SF-set novel links personal, political conflicts with passion, empathy

Most Read