We’re closing out the second week of May with some rankings… Chief Executive magazine released its 2015 “Best and Worst States for Business.” Texas, Florida and North Carolina came in top three. Washington ranks #32, earning three out of five stars for workforce quality and two out of five for taxes and regulations. Summary line from the analysis:
High tech and manufacturing continue to be strong with established companies, but Washington’s regulatory environment can stifle outside investment in new facilities.
Rankings like these, while subjective, can be a gauge of how the business climate of our state is perceived. They also beg the question, how can Washington improve? In our view, making Washington a great place to live and work depends on a balanced strategy that encourages both high quality of life and a healthy business climate. To that end, we developed the Benchmarks for a Better Washington in 2011 to track multiple measures covering innovation, quality of life and business costs. According to the Benchmark analysis, Washington has continued to do well on innovation – patent generation and job creation – but there’s room to improve in other areas, including education and transportation. Progress on those should be the focus of the tail end of this legislative session.
In a recent report, A Stronger Nation through Higher Education, the Lumina Foundation finds that 43.8 percent of Washington state’s 3.8 million working-age adults (those between the ages of 25 and 64) hold a two- or four-year college degree. The percentage increased from 42.5 percent in 2010 and is slightly above the national rate of 41.6 percent.
The Washington State Board of Education provides another look at postsecondary attainment, with 2013-14 data that shows 52 percent of high school graduates attaining certificates, credentials, or completing apprenticeships prior to age 26 (2013-14 data).
Compare this to where we need and want to be as a state, and we know there’s work to do.
By the end of this decade, an estimated 70 percent of jobs in Washington state (as compared to 65 percent nationally) will require postsecondary training. The state legislature last year adopted a postsecondary attainment goal: At least 70 percent of Washington adults, ages 25 to 44, will have a postsecondary credential by 2023. (See more details in the “Achieve” section of the Opportunity Washington roadmap.)
The decisions that the 2015 Legislature makes in the coming weeks will be important to reaching that goal. Lawmakers should prioritize higher education funding and position the state’s postsecondary system to support economic opportunity through better alignment with workforce needs and greater capacity for high-demand STEM programs.
Percentage of Washington residents, ages 25-64, who hold a two- or four-year college degree