Abbott plugs education workforce initiative

Filling skilled job openings in Texas

AUSTIN - Texas' fortunes have been tied heavily to fossil fuels for decades, but Texas leaders want to avoid ending up an economic dinosaur.

"How do we prevent Texas from becoming Kodak or Woolworth, who were doing pretty well 20 years ago?" Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Texas) asked Monday at the Texas Education and Workforce Summit in Austin. 

The governor has directed public education, higher education and workforce officials to answer that and report recommendations developed by a tri-agency task force. One goal is to graduate more students from high school ready to enter college or the workforce. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board's 60 by 30 initiative aims to ensure 60% of Texans aged 25 to 34 have a certificate or degree by 2030.

Commissioner Raymund Paredes explains the job begins with public education.

"We're not where we need to be in terms of the percentage of high school graduates who go to college. We're right now at about 54 percent. We need at least 65 percent," Paredes told KVUE. 

There are plenty of roadblocks.

"I think it's a combination of family finances and financial aid for needy students. Sixty percent of students coming through the public K-12 pipeline are poor," said Paredes. "I think it's a matter of preparation. I think it's a matter of students understanding what their various options are."

Finding the best options to provide employers with the workers it needs is part of the Texas Workforce Commissions' task.

"A high school degree is just not going to be as effective in getting tomorrow's jobs," said Ruth Hughs, the commissioner representing employers. "Across the board, we're seeing IT. We're seeing the oil field jobs, many of them have transitioned into areas of, I was just in Midland last week, and they were talking about seeing an uptick in construction. So it just depends, regionally, where you're located in terms of what the needs are."

As Abbott pointed out during his remarks, Texas has come a long way when it comes to diversification. The state has become a national leader in finance, health care and technology jobs. Yet the state faces a shortage of homegrown skilled workers, in particular in areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. 

For more information on Texas' workforce needs, check out this 2014 report by then-Comptroller Susan Combs.

(© 2016 KVUE)


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