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Automation & Demographic Shifts Changing The Future Of Work In OC, According To New Report

The future of Orange County’s workforce is expected to undergo dramatic changes due to evolving technologies and demographic shifts, according to Orange County Business Council’s 2020 Orange County Workforce Indicators Report released on October 10.

Dr. Wallace Walrod, OCBC Chief Economic Advisor, unveiled the report to over 300 attendees at OCBC’s 18th Annual Orange County Workforce Development Conference, sponsored by Union Bank, at the Hotel Irvine. After Dr. Walrod’s presentation, a panel of experts discussed the report’s implications, with panelists including Mark Steiman, Executive Director of HR for CHOC Children’s; Buky Famosa, Sr. Vice President of HR for Experian; and Dr. Gustavo ChamorroOrange County Director for Los Angeles Orange County Regional Consortium (LAOCRC).

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The report identifies aging as Orange County’s most important demographic trend. While millennials are the county’s largest age group, the 65+ age group is expected to grow from 16% in 2019 to 29% in 2060 with all other age groups shrinking. This issue is exacerbated by housing affordability concerns, a byproduct of the high demand to live and work in the county which increases housing costs and prices many younger residents out of the area.

While Orange County’s booming economy boasts a near-record low unemployment rate of 3.0 percent, the lowest in Southern California, attracting and retaining young professionals remains an issue due to high housing costs. This trend could begin to affect one of the county’s primary competitive advantages, its deep, educated talent pool.

Orange County’s educational attainment remains a major strength as it continues to outperform peers in metrics including lowest high school dropout rate (5.3%), highest graduation rate (89%), and college readiness in the form of strong college-going rates (76%). STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) degrees are also on the rise, particularly in the case of Healthcare where Bachelor’s degree conferrals have increase by 626% since 2004. This is great news for the region’s economy, since these fields tend to have high salaries, scalable career ladders and solid defensibility against automation. Top job postings from the last 12 months also reflect a high demand for STEAM professionals, including Software Developers and Registered Nurses.

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Additionally, employers and educators need to focus on soft skills – such as creativity, critical thinking, and active learning – which have also shown resistance to automation. The Arts play an especially important role due to their innate creativity requirements. Orange County’s arts, entertainment and tourism sectors continue to grow, having attracted 50 million visitors in 2018, employing 200,000 workers and creating $13 billion in economic impact.

The conference theme, “The Art of Sustaining a Skilled & Creative Workforce,” featured a robust keynote presentation from Lisa Haines, OCBC Board Member and Vice President of Public Affairs, who discussed Disneyland Resort’s investment in both its own employees – including the educational reimbursement program Disney Aspire – and the surrounding communities with a focus on workforce development, affordable housing, education and training.

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