According to the report, programs that lead to associate degrees, certificates, or diplomas, and can be completed in two years or less, are in particularly short supply.

The study notes that private career colleges, which offer vocational training and education to non-traditional students, can help close the skills gap in California.

"Workforce development is a critical policy issue for California and the nation," said John D. Baker, Interim Director of the California Workforce Association. "Whereas other nations are choosing to make substantial investments to skill up their workers, the U.S. appears to be timid in committing resources, leaving our talent development infrastructure vulnerable. This report demonstrates the need for policies that provide opportunities for workers to develop the necessary skills needed to prosper in a changing economy while supporting the economic competitiveness of businesses."  

"Left Out, Left Behind" not only documents the magnitude of California's workforce education skills gap, but also quantifies how much money that gap will cost individuals, employers, and the state economy. The report found that people who attend or graduate from college are much more likely to be employed and earn substantially more than those who did not pursue educational opportunities beyond high school.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, last year's unemployment rate among those with less than a high school diploma was about 12%; among high school graduates was 8.8%, and among those with associate degree or some college, was 6.6%. Researchers also found that the typical 25- to 34- year-old increases his or her annual income by $2,272 for each year of college attendance. Those with an associate degree earn $6,432 more annually.

The "Left Out, Left Behind" report also warned that ignoring the skills gap will cost California billions of dollars in lost income. According to the report, "insufficient access to career education translates into foregone income of thousands of dollars annually for each Californian denied access. Statewide, over the next decade, the gap will result in a projected loss of foregone personal income of $52.2 billion. Counties with the largest demand-supply gap will face potential cumulative personal income losses ranging from $1.4 billion to $17.1 billion."

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