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December 8, 2019
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Report: youth unprepared, struggling to find housing

WATSONVILLE — Less than one third of Santa Cruz County’s 2018 high school graduates were prepared for the workforce, a number far below the statewide average of 42 percent.

That’s according to the annual State of the Workforce report released Aug. 29 by Santa Cruz County.

The report, which was conducted by Los Angeles-based Beacon Economics, also showed a drastic increase over a five-year period in the number of young adults who still live with their parents or in-laws. According to the report, the percentage of people age 25 to 29 in that situation jumped from 17 percent in 2012 to 46 percent in 2017.

The data from the State of the Workforce report helps inform the actions of the Workforce Development Board of Santa Cruz County.

In addition, Santa Cruz County’s fleet of young professionals — those in the tech, engineering and management sectors — largely commute to other counties where they can earn higher salaries, the report shows.

All of this is tied to high housing costs, said Beacon Economics Director of Research Adam Fowler.

“Without action, the housing crisis will continue to pose significant challenges for Santa Cruz County’s workforce, particularly younger workers and those in the earlier phases of their career,” he said. “The County can also do a better job preparing students for college, which increasingly is one of the only paths to staying in the community where they grew up.”

Pajaro Valley Unified School District Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez said that new assessments such as the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, and advanced placement tests, show that the district is performing on par with those in nearby counties, and close to the state level.

Rodriguez said she expects to see improvements after the district this year began requiring two years of a foreign language for all incoming freshmen, in addition to a visual and performing arts requirement. 

PVUSD is also preparing its students for college by offering juniors and seniors dual enrollment with Cabrillo College, in which they can earn college credit.

In addition, PVUSD recently implemented its own Career Technical Education program, which Rodriguez said is an additional way to prepare young people for the workforce.

The district also recently retooled its A – G offerings, or classes required by the UC and CSU systems for admission

“I’m heartened with the direction we’re going,” she said. “Those small changes will really have an impact on our students.”

The report also shows a disparity in employment opportunities between the North and South portions of the county. Overall, North County jobs outnumber those in South County by nearly 5-to-1, the report shows.

In addition, North County jobs grew at twice the rate of South County jobs between 2012-2017. 

Watsonville City Manager Matt Huffaker said that is due in part to North County’s greater concentration of the larger employers such as UC Santa Cruz, Seaside Company and the County of Santa Cruz.

North County is also closer to the greater Bay Area and Silicon Valley, providing a geographical advantage, Huffaker said.

He also pointed out that the report did not include many agricultural jobs in South County.

The news was not all bad. Wages are continuing to rise, and the number of people who complete post-secondary education here exceeds other Central Coast counties. In addition, local unemployment continues to hover near historic lows.

The report also shows that the county outpaces Alameda, San Francisco, Santa Clara and Monterey counties in the number of retirees.

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To see the report, visit bit.ly/2m07esB

For information, visit bit.ly/2jVtzXs, www.sccvitality.org and www.santacruzcounty.us/SP.

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