The future economic prosperity of metropolitan Washington will rely on the region’s investment in its residents and their collective knowledge, skills, abilities, says a new report released today by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG).
According to the State of the Region: Human Capital Report, the region’s prosperity can be attributed to its knowledge economy, fueled by its enterprising residents and imported workers who are attracted to the area for its rich professional opportunities.
“Workers used to follow jobs, but an increasing number of companies are following talent, which is a competitive advantage for our region,” said Kenyan McDuffie, COG Board of Directors Chairman and District of Columbia Councilmember. “Area leaders need to build on this strength by ensuring that more of our residents are prepared for the high-quality jobs that these companies are creating.”
The region has a higher concentration of workers in occupations that require advanced training than the rest of the country—specifically computer and mathematics, business and financial operations, and management occupations. This is a reflection of the region’s highly-educated population, which also outperforms all other metropolitan areas in the nation when it comes to educational attainment. Nearly half (49 percent) of the region’s residents hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. High educational attainment is also a hallmark of the region’s immigrant population; 42 percent hold a bachelor’s degree or higher.
“For two centuries we’ve been known as the ‘Federal Capital,’ but the data is now telling us a different story about metropolitan Washington—in the twenty-first century we’re the ‘Human Capital’ region,” said Chuck Bean, COG Executive Director.
The State of the Region: Human Capital Report provides a snapshot of metropolitan Washington’s human capital by analyzing the region’s demographics, growth forecasts, and workforce trends. The report also considers the impact of imbalances in economic growth that have occurred in certain areas of the region. Additional takeaways from the report:
- 5.4 million reside in the region; COG forecasts that more than 1.5 million people will be added to the region between 2015 and 2045.
- 3.2 jobs exist in the region, with 1.1 million new jobs forecast to be added between 2015 and 2045.
- Nearly 63 percent of the population is between the working ages of 20 and 65 – a higher share than the nation which reports just under 60 percent.
- 11 percent of the region’s jobs (364,400) are within the federal government.
- Twenty-three percent of the local population is foreign born (approximately 1.3 million people).
The report reiterates the importance of preparing the population for the additional 1.1 million jobs that are forecast to become part of the region’s economy. A mismatch between available jobs and skilled workers can force employers to look outside of the region for new employees, hindering the economy. For example, in 2015, although nearly half of the region’s adults had a bachelor’s degree, the majority (73 percent) of job postings required this qualification. In addition, although the region is one of the most racially and ethnically diverse, employment growth in the western part of the region has outpaced the eastern side by as much as 20 to 1.
“Area leaders must continue to invest in the creation of quality places—centers of activity and opportunity around our region that will appeal to the future workforce—while also working together to maximize the wealth of talent that is already here,” said Chuck Bean, COG Executive Director.
The region’s leadership—government, business, and academia—should continue to collaborate to develop and attract the workforce of the future. The report calls for increased collaboration between area leaders, Workforce Investment Board (WIBs) and Workforce Investment Councils (WICs), and colleges and universities to develop regional, inclusive workforce development strategies and education services that align with the needs of the current and future business community. And, by supporting and investing in seven key economic clusters—from media and information services to biotech—area leaders will ensure that the workforce is insulated from fluctuations in federal employment and federal spending.
The report also highlights the work of 10 community organizations and workforce boards who are uniquely positioned to help residents thrive; the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area encourages collaboration between the region’s academic institutions, while the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer connects scientists and entrepreneurs to propel opportunities and technologies from the lab into the marketplace.
MORE: State of the Region: Human Capital Report