An estimated 86% of all good full-time jobs in the U.S. require a postsecondary credential. By 2030, 62% of all Texas jobs will require the same. The problem is: Texas doesn’t have the skilled workforce to fill those jobs and it’s led to over a million job openings across the state going unfilled as of March 2022. According to a new report from over twenty leading business and education organizations, including the Commit Partnership, community colleges are key to solving the shortage.
The report says, “Even with the significant progress we’ve achieved in postsecondary access, completion, and innovation, and despite having one of the longest sustained economic expansions in American history, Texas is facing a pronounced decline in workforce competitiveness due — in large part — to a lack of postsecondary attainment among working aged adults.”
In Texas today, 54% of jobs are considered middle-skill, meaning that they require a postsecondary credential beyond high school but less than a bachelor’s degree. However, only 45% of Texans are sufficiently trained for these types of jobs – which leaves a 9-percentage point “middle skills gap” of about 1.4 million Texans, according to the National Skills Coalition. That’s where community colleges are uniquely positioned to help.
By offering accessible, affordable pathways to jobs in high-demand fields, community colleges can act quickly to meet local workforce needs. But, especially after experiencing a sharp downturn in enrollment in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s clear they need targeted, strategic investments from state leadership. That’s why the coalition shared its key policy recommendations with the Texas Commission on Community College Finance.
The report’s recommendations are designed to fundamentally reform community college finance in Texas to reflect the needs of the 21st century. From strengthening funding to improving the educational and occupational outcomes for the 650,000 students currently attending a Texas public community or technical college, these recommendations can help prepare Texas students and support the state’s businesses too.
All of these suggestions are intended to build upon, support, and advance the state’s new “Building a Talent Strong Texas” goals. They have the support of multiple chambers of commerce and education organizations in Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, Tyler/Longview and more and have recently garnered positive press in the Houston Chronicle, Rio Grande Guardian, and Dallas Morning News.
As Bob Harvey, President and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership said, “Investment in our community college network is critical to our future economic success, equipping the next generation of Texans with the skills needed to compete in a rapidly evolving business environment.”
According to recent estimates from Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar, Texas lawmakers in 2023 will have a $27 billion surplus, for a total of $149.07 billion in general funds, making the 88th Legislative Session a unique and advantageous opportunity to specifically invest in workforce development.
Next month, the Commission will meet and release its own policy proposals to bolster the community college system during the 88th Legislative Session. We hope you will join us in watching the results closely. The stakes are clear – without urgent action, Texas risks losing a generation of students and billions of dollars of their potential earnings. This Legislative Session must be the Workforce Session.