Workforce Solutions Capital Area, in cooperation with the Capital Area Council of Governments and Workforce Solutions Rural Capital Area, last week published a wake-up call in the form of a report called State of the Workforce 2010: Austin-Round Rock MSA. Given the accolades the Austin region receives on a regular basis, it’s important to remember that we have work left to do, particularly in the area of educational attainment.
Maintaining our status as The Human Capital is critical for the region’s competitive advantage in the global economy. We need to be more honest with ourselves about some concerning trends. Steve Murdock recently grabbed headlines, in the way that only he can, about the education challenge facing Texas. As State of the Workforce makes clear, the Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos region is not excused from the conversation:
- 13.5 percent of the population age 25+ does not have a high school diploma or GED. That’s roughly 230,000 people. Median earnings for this group are $19,824.
- 36 percent of Hispanics age 25+ do not have a high school diploma or GED. According to the Texas State Data Center, Hispanics made up an estimated 49 percent of the region’s population growth during 2001-2008.
- Median earnings for African Americans and Hispanics–38 percent of the region’s residents–are 30 percent to 40 percent lower than median earnings for Asians and Whites.
Talent drives economic competitiveness. Austin has no problem attracting talent from other U.S. regions, and, increasingly, from around the world. We should be proud of our strong economy and ability to attract skilled workers, but over-reliance on imported talent is not a viable long-term strategy. We can’t survive on growth forever. We will eventually need to come to terms with the fact that the talent pipeline starts here with existing residents, and we must do a better job equipping people with the education and skills they need to succeed, and keep us competitive.