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April 2009

MARCH REVENUE (in millions): SALES TAX: $1,589.1 OIL PRODUCTION: $38.4 NATURAL GAS: $118.0

Texas Works

Around Texas

  • A March employee confidence survey by Spherion indicates that more Texas workers are optimistic about the future of their employer. Seventy-seven percent of workers reported confidence, an increase of nine percentage points from December.
  • Lubbock appeared on U.S. News and World Report’s list of 10 Best Cities for Job-Seeking Retirees.
  • Lockheed Martin will locate its Altair program office in Houston to provide support for NASA’s next-generation human lunar lander system, the agency’s project to transport and house up to four astronauts onto the moon’s surface.

New report calls for more skilled work force training.

by Michael Castellon

Several years ago, instructors at Howard College in San Angelo learned something new: It was becoming harder for area industries to find skilled workers.

Area businesses identified a shortage of health care professionals. A committee of health care providers and representatives from the San Angelo Chamber of Commerce, Concho Valley Workforce Board, City of San Angelo Development Corporation, Howard College, Angelo State University and San Angelo Independent School District came together and coordinated an aggressive marketing campaign to attract students.

Susan Combs

“In Texas, there is no one-size-fits-all
model of education.”

– Susan Combs, Texas Comptroller

Later, the committee identified a shortage of welders. A welding survey was developed to determine the needs of area companies, and Howard College’s Workforce Training department used the results to develop advanced welding courses to meet the needs of local employers.

“We went from having about six or seven students in our welding classes to having 12, with a waiting list for more students that we hope to add when we have the space,” says Jamie Rainey, division director of Workforce Training at Howard College, which partnered with businesses to identify work force demands.

What educators in San Angelo discovered echoed the findings of the Texas Comptroller’s Texas Works report, which outlines critical shifts in the U.S. and Texas economy that call for swift action to avoid work force shortages in several key industries across the state. Changing demographics and shifting educational attainment rates may mean a shortage in skilled technical workers, according to the report, which also outlines several key steps and initiatives to offset the trend and educate students and parents about the many paths to success.

Industries, Colleges Team Up to Train Northeast Texas Work Force

Three community colleges, 14 manufacturing companies, Workforce Solutions of Northeast Texas and the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC): Put their resources together you get the Regional Advanced Manufacturing Academy (RAMA), which delivers thousands of hours of training for new and existing employees in Northeast Texas.

Paris Junior College (PJC), Texarkana and Northeast Texas community colleges each have centers of excellence that conduct different types of training, says Kevin Rose, PJC dean of workforce education. Paris delivers manufacturing processes; Texarkana is the center for logistics; and Northeast’s center of excellence is quality assurance and safety.

The $1.2 million TWC skills development grant funds training for manufacturers located in each college’s service area, including Campbell Soups, International Paper, Kimberly-Clark, Diamond C Trailers and Sara Lee.

Campbell Soup’s Vice President of Operations Mike Winkler says the synergy between the manufacturers, colleges and economic development officials has been key to developing successful programs.

His company already employs more than 800 people in Paris, where it has had a presence since 1964. The addition of a new V8 juice production line means Winkler needs to find another 60 to 70 employees in an area with already low unemployment.

Campbell’s employees take a self-paced online safety, maintenance skills and supply chain logistics course, and are then tested accordingly.

“It’s not specific to equipment but it improves problem-solving skills,” Winkler says. “That helps workers when they learn to operate the systems used on the production lines.” FN

(Gerard MacCrossan)

For more information about work force education in northeast Texas, visit

Winds of Change

During the 1940s, the U.S. economy was saved largely by a boom in the industrial sector thanks to World War II. Orders for war materials spurred industrialization and brought new life and revenue to a battered economy.

Within a few decades, though, after a significant increase in prosperity, the nation’s economy became information-based. The need for college graduates skyrocketed, and educators and parents scrambled to route more students into four-year universities.

Today, attention continues to focus on encouraging students to earn four-year university degrees. And while Texas’ diverse business climate requires college graduates to participate in its engineering, medical, telecommunication and education sectors, there is growing demand for more technically skilled workers. If it goes unmet, this demand could have a dramatic effect on the state economy.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

As the nation’s leader in job creation, Texas has a high demand for workers. Educators and parents are tasked with making the right information and resources available to provide the best type of education for their children and students.

The blanket four-year university approach assumes that if university education is promoted strongly enough, all students will attend. The reality, however, is that many students will choose not to attend universities, no matter the promotion. And there is a tremendous mismatch between the number of advanced degrees and jobs requiring them.

“In Texas, there is no one-size-fits-all model of education,” says Texas Comptroller Susan Combs. “Students have a diverse set of needs and career aspirations, and right now, our system doesn’t fully reflect that.”

Big Demand

Many baby boomers who staffed vocational positions have retired in recent years, leaving some areas in a bind. Corpus Christi, Port Arthur and other cities are reeling from a shortage of welders. If this trend continues, employers may be forced to relocate to areas with more readily trained work forces.

In 2007, more than 80 percent of all Texas jobs did not require a bachelor’s degree. Similarly, demand for skilled workers far outweighed job openings, with 43,715 openings for 36,442 technical school graduates that year.

Even more alarming: Jobs requiring bachelor’s degrees and above had 104,054 graduates competing for about 85,000 openings that year.

But policy and revenue streams may be hampering the ability of many community colleges to support more students. State appropriations for community colleges are not keeping pace with demand for student hours. After accounting for inflation, formula funding appropriations declined by 23 percent per hour over the last decade. Considering that enrollment increased 3.4 percent annually at Texas community colleges over 10 years, state spending per student increased by only 1 percent per year, putting reliance on local funding.

Education Requirements for
Texas Jobs, 2007

In 2007, just more than 80 percent of all jobs in Texas did not require a college degree.

Education/Training RequiredNumber of JobsPercent
Short-term on-the-job training3,657,19335.65%
Moderate-term on-the-job training2,291,22022.33%
Long-term on-the-job training689,7536.72%
Work experience in a related field678,3466.61%
Postsecondary vocational award497,6984.85%
Associate degree407,5683.97%
Subtotal – no bachelor’s degree required8,221,77880.15%

Note: Numbers may not total due to rounding
Source: Economic Modeling Specialists, Inc.

Demographic Changes Affecting Who Goes to College

The economy is having a big impact on the number of people coming to us looking for opportunities,” Rainey says.

Texas population projections predict a less educated work force and fewer skilled workers if trends continue. The State Data Center predicts an overall decline in the educational attainment of the Texas labor force by 2040. That same year, a larger percentage of the Texas work force, about 30 percent, will have no high school diploma.

But by giving students several options for post-secondary studies, the Texas Works report finds the state could increase interest in technical training.

Education Pushes Salary, Economy

For technical certificate jobs paying more than $37,187 annually, the 2007 median earnings was $46,616 – far more than the $32,000 median salary of a Texan with just a high school diploma.

“Our top graduates from the chemical-environmental, computer drafting and design, dental hygiene and telecommunications career fields find starting jobs with annual salaries ranging from about $48,500 to $58,000,” says Keri Gutierrez of Texas State Technical College at Harlingen.

LIT Partnership Means Better Trained, Higher Paid Texans

The Lamar Institute of Technology’s (LIT) Workforce Training Department has helped numerous businesses create specialized curriculum to enhance the skills of their employees.

Southeast Texas Industries (STI), a multi-million dollar petrochemical business, sought out LIT when the company decided to enhance the skills of its structural pipefitters.

Robert Woodard, a training leader for STI, said his company has benefited a great deal from the partnership.

LIT is a great value, and we are very pleased with the outcome of the classes,” Woodard says.

The result: better-trained employees with more marketable skills.

STI employees were being paid, on average, between $9.50 and  $13 an hour. After training, they earned between $14 and $20.75 per hour as structural steel fitters.

For the past 10 years, the number of students taking classes through the LIT Workforce Department has risen from 1,100 to 3,338. FN

Read more about work force opportunities provided by the Lamar Institute of Technology.

Austin Community College Powers the Future

Tommy Whiteaker’s story is one of reinvention. The Austin native graduated from the University of Texas in 2001 with a degree in communications and immediately entered the work force. After a few jobs, though, Whiteaker felt an imbalance in his professional life. He needed something more.

Students at Austin Community College learn advanced workplace skills.  Photo courtesy of Austin Community College

One brochure from Austin Community College later and his life took a transformation after entering the college’s renewable energy program.

“This program puts the theory into practice,” he says, speaking of his coursework in circuit design, digital logic and mechanical systems that will prepare him for careers ranging from solar panel technician to electrical engineer.

Whiteaker and his classmates hit the books and then hit the labs for hands-on technical work in preparation for entering one of the fastest-growing industries in the nation.

“The faculty are great. They come from industry and work hard to prepare you for the field,” he says.

Whiteaker is interning with Austin Energy, which not only offers valuable on-the-job work experience to accompany his academics, but provides the opportunity for him to make an early name for himself in the industry he plans to work in soon. FN

Check out Austin Community College’s Renewable Energy Program.

Powering the Solution

The Texas Works report calls for greater collaboration between the Texas Education Agency, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the Texas Workforce Commission and the Comptroller’s office to ensure Texas students are aware of all postsecondary educational options, including career and technical education (CTE).

In addition, the state should ensure policies such as the new “four-by-four” policy, which requires Texas high school students to enroll in four years each of math, science, language and social studies programs, don’t discourage students from enrolling in career and technology courses.

Strategic funding will also play a major role in offsetting a misbalanced work force. The Comptroller’s office would like to see up to $10 million in grants over the biennium earmarked for existing programs that help low-income students attend community college and technical work force programs and $10 million to be dedicated to help start CTE programs geared toward high-growth industries and occupations.

“Our focus is to make certain we’re getting a positive return on our work force investment,” Combs says. FN

Read the Texas Works report in its entirety.

On the Web

To see a listing of some of Texas’ hottest career paths and how to get started with work force training in your area, visit

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