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Growing California Needs Educated Workers

California, the most populous U.S. state, will add at least seven million people over the next two decades, and a new report says careful planning is needed to deal with the growth. Analysts say the biggest need will be for educated workers, and the greatest challenge will be keeping jobs in the state.

California has an economy that rivals those of most industrial countries. Mark Baldassare of the Public Policy Institute of California says more jobs will be created in the high tech and the professional service sectors, fields including health care and accounting.

Mr. Baldassare, one of the authors of the report California 2025, says the state could add as many as 11 million people in the next 20 years. He says the projected growth will create challenges.

"We're going to need a college educated workforce in the future and if current demographic trends continue, we expect that we're not going to have as many college-educated workers as we have positions," Mr. Baldassare says.

He says that may require companies to import skilled workers, leaving Californians who lack a college education without employment.

Politicians are struggling to make their state competitive in a global economy, as many U.S. manufacturing and technology jobs move to India and China. Bob Hertzberg, who took part in a recent panel on the future of the state, served two years as the speaker of the California assembly, but says government is a small part of the solution.

"It's all about the private sector," Mr. Hertzberg says. "Most of the businesses in California, some 90 percent, are 25 employees or less. Our challenge in government now is to figure out in this new global economy, how do we rewrite the regulations to keep jobs here and to incentivize companies to stay here?"

He says labor unions and businesses, traditional opponents, find themselves agreeing on some issues. He says both want to address the problem of soaring health care costs, which are hurting both workers and employers. He says the threat of seeing many jobs transferred overseas makes it prudent for labor and management, as well as politicians, to work together. Mr. Hertzberg, a Democrat who served on the transition team of Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, says cross-party cooperation is essential in a time of global competition.

"Certainly the competition that we're facing from around the world has fundamentally changed what our normal, historical political coalitions have been, so the challenge that we face is to figure out what those new political coalitions look like," Mr. Hertzberg says.

Report co-author Mark Baldassare says since Californians will continue their legendary love affair with the automobile, another challenge facing the state is an inadequate transportation infrastructure. Commuters face gridlocked freeways and have too few roads in the interior of the state, where he says much of the future growth will occur.

Yet another challenge, Mr. Baldassare says, will be integrating Hispanics into the state's political process. He says by 2025, Hispanics, who now make up one-third of California's population, may be a majority. But many are recent immigrants and he says they lag behind in educational attainment and political involvement.

Yet Hispanics are starting to make their mark in the state. Newly elected Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the son of a Mexican immigrant, will take office Friday, July 1.