Friday, June 17, 2016

California Conundrum Part 1

There are at least three stories that were told at the Annual Workers' Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau meeting in San Francisco yesterday.

The one I will relay today is the one about education and jobs, and how the workers' compensation industry, in my mind, is going to have a tough time getting new blood to replace us gray/no hairs unless something drastic changes.
Sarah Bohn

Sarah Bohn  is an economy research fellow at the research center of Public Policy Institute of California. While her presentation was about the general economy of the state so that attendees could understand where the jobs are going to be and in what risk categories (and regions), here's the bottom line: there aren't going to be enough college educated young people to meet the demands of the job market.

In other words, there's going to be a shortage of qualified people available to handle all of the tasks in the work comp industry (and other jobs that require higher education) so work comp is going to have to compete for talent.

Bohn said that job growth in California is happening mostly in the service sectors, accounting for 50% of all job growth. The sectors that are growing fastest include accommodation (hospitality) and food, health care, professional and scientific, and administrative jobs. The mix is still pretty diverse, Bohn noted, and those areas are projected to continue their growth rates through 2022, though construction in certain geographic areas is going to explode.

Side note: construction is a mainstay of the California economy and supports a huge side economy in supplies, appliances, banking, etc.

About 50% of the fastest growing jobs require little education, said Bohn, but the wage polarization will accellerate against the higher education jobs; one needs look beyond just the growth numbers to the characterizations: Overall Bohn believes more jobs will require more education than current, continuing a trend from past years.

About 1/3 of all jobs in the state require a college degree, 1/3 high school or less, and the other third in between high school graduation with some college training.

But future economic demand is going to exceed the supply of skilled workers by 2030 in the high education high skill sectors. Bohn calls this a skills gap which will result in lower economic growth and increasing economic inequality between the haves (college educated) and have nots (no college degree).

California used to be the education capital of the world because of its marvelous public university program through the UC and state college system. The model was phenomenal 50 years ago, but needs an update, according to Bohn, if the state is going to meet demand.

Compared internationally, California still has one of the highest share of bachelor degrees overall for older adults, but not for the 25-34 group which ranks about average.

But the future is more dire.

41% of California high school grads don't go to college within 1 year after graduation, and overall not enough go to college at all. California's public education plays a huge role in whether someone goes to college, accounting for 46% of all admissions.

Bohn estimates that only 35% of adults will have college degrees in 2025 which will create a shortage relative to job demands of about 1.1 million worker...

The way I took this news is that the workers' compensation industry is going to have a tough time getting skilled/educated workers, and we'll be competing against (actually, already are) all of the other economic sectors.

So we, as in work comp, will need to work harder to educate, recruit and train - oh, and pay wages that will match tech, and other more rich job sectors.

There are some executives and companies that are thinking hard about this conundrum and they're talking actively about how the industry can support trade specific (in this case insurance and workers' compensation) training into college degrees to that young people come out of school already primed for a career of helping people.

These efforts are a great start. More will need to be done though. More financial assistance, more university participation, more marketing of the industry to young people.

In particular, we need to communicate a message that workers' compensation is a good career for good people who want to do good things for humanity.

I'm not talking about a polly-anna, fantasy - but there are stories we can tell. Some people don't have good experiences, granted. We as an industry should learn from those so we can deliver work comp better in the future.

But we should also do more to acknowledge what's right, tell those stories, and do a better job of managing the image of work comp and the people that make it happen.

Part of my small effort in that regards is Comp Laude. Yep, shameless promotion here, but timely.

Nominations are open, but will cease at the end of this month. The process is simple - just tell us who you are, who the nominee is, and a short description of why the nominee should be recognized.

You don't need to figure out any categories, use any rating scales, answer any questions.

If your nominee passes the first round of selections by our nominations committee, then you'll be asked to provide a more complete narrative, i.e. tell us the story.

Stories are what people want to hear. Statistics are great, but stories engage people and help with understanding.

We'll present those stories, and the award winners, November 4 and 5 at the Burbank Airport Marriott.

Workers' compensation is going to need educated people in the future and we'll be competing against the rest of the economy for them. Sure we need to step up educational efforts, but the first part of the equation is to elevate the image of the industry.

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