California’s “Homegrown” Workforce by Dean Cathy Sandeen


April 1, 2010, was Census Day—the day on which we “count” our population. Great time to think about demographic changes—and there are many in the State of California—but you may be surprised by the emerging picture.

NPR ran an interesting interview with Dowell Myers, professor of Urban Planning at USC, on a major milestone for California. The majority of our population now consists of native born Californians. (Full disclosure: I am one of them.) Both immigration of foreign-born residents and in-migration from other states or territories have declined as the number of children born in California has increased.

Some other interesting observations from two reports by Myers and John Pitkin:   (Other report here)

  • “In fact, the homegrown became the majority as early as 2000 in the state as a whole, and reached majority status in Southern California in 2005.
  • None of the Southern California counties had a homegrown majority in 1980.
  • The younger generation knows only one home, and they appear committed to building their careers in the Golden State.
  • With much deeper roots in the state, the California-born residents are more likely to remain in the state as workers, taxpay­ers and home buyers after their education.
  • Accord­ingly, these are good candidates to repay the public’s educational and social investments made while they were children.”

But on the potential downside (my words), this overall lack of immigration, coupled with the aging of our population may lead our State into what Commerce Secretary Gary Locke has called an innovation deficit.

As Locke observed:

  • “In the past, America has depended, above all, on one thing to keep growing: a continuous flow of new technologies and new ideas entering the marketplace that sweeps away old ways of doing business and replaces them with new ones.
  • Just a decade or two ago, the United States had the unquestioned lead in the design and production of things like semi-conductors, batteries, robotics and consumer electronics.
  • No longer. Our balance of trade in “advanced technology products” turned negative in 2002—and has shown little sign of abating.”

Eric Schmidt, Chairman and Chief Executive at Google, continued this line of thought in a recent Washington Post OpEd: Erasing our innovation deficit, “there’s a real chance that the ‘green Silicon Valley’ will take root in Germany or China. We can’t afford to let that happen.”

Professor Myers also mentioned risk to innovation in yesterday’s NPR interview:

“It is a little alarming that the economy might not be as experimental and innovative because there are fewer young people. I think every state is going to be looking to try to capture as many of the young people as they can so they can keep the sparks alive in their local economy.”

What can we do about this? Simple. Education. Education. Education.  In fact, my colleague , Scott Hutchinson, and I will be addressing this topic in a presentation called “Putting Creativity to Work” on April 9th as part of the University Continuing Education Association annual conference.

 The focus of our talk can be summarized as: Yes, this is important, but how do we actually teach people to be more innovative and creative?

More to follow from me on this topic. Your thoughts?



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