Business

Thursday, Sep 27 2012 04:38 PM

Improvement to Kern's post-secondary education rate may help job recruitment

BY JOHN COX Californian staff writer jcox@bakersfield.com

More of Kern County's high school graduates are choosing to continue their education, according to a new report that could boost local business recruitment efforts.

Results of a Cal State Bakersfield study unveiled Thursday indicate that in 2010, 41 percent of county residents between the ages of 18 and 24 had received some form of education after graduation, up from 31 percent a decade before. The national rate in 2010 was 16 percent.

Although much of this activity consisted of occupational training as opposed to college classes, the phenomenon nevertheless represents a bright spot in the county's efforts to attract employers.

"I think it's a good selling point," CSUB researcher Cheryl Holsonbake told local business and education leaders gathered for Thursday's meeting of the Kern Economic Development Corp. board of directors.

CSUB's 2012 Labor Market Study highlights some of the educational challenges that have long weighed against Kern's efforts to attract well-paying employers. For instance, it notes that 16 percent of the county's high school students do not graduate, and that only 29 percent take courses required to enter California universities (statewide the rate was 40 percent).

Even so, KEDC officials were quick to point out that many in Kern's oil and value-added agriculture industries have undergone technical training that make them a valuable asset to the region.

Employers considering moving to Kern "don't realize these folks are very highly skilled," said KEDC Chairman Dean Brown, an executive with Tejon Ranch Co., the Lebec-based agribusiness and real estate development company.

The labor market study also found that Kern County is relatively young, with a median age of a little over 30 years old as compared with the national median of about 37 years old.

Kern's average household income, $45,524 a year, compared unfavorably with the rest of the state ($57,708) and the country ($50,046), according to the study.

Among the study's more promising findings was that the county's first-quarter taxable sales per capita increased 36 percent to $3,719 between 2010 and 2011. Statewide, such sales increased 12 percent over that period, to $3,161.

Holsonbake said the taxable sales increase was a good indication that the county is experiencing a sustained economic recovery.

KEDC President and CEO Richard Chapman said elements of the study will be used in the county's business recruitment efforts.

"This is just a jumping off point, starting point," he said.

The study was funded by contributions from Kern County, KEDC, Employers' Training Resource, the Kern Community College District, the Kern High School District and CSUB.

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