During the past five weeks I have shared with you some ideas to continue to grow our Texas economy, increase more jobs, and provide for a more secure future for the next generation of Texans.
Our Real Employment Challenge In Texas
We have all heard the great news about Texas.
Yet, for the month ending March 2013, Texas reported 814,482 people unemployed and looking for work. How can the State of Texas put more people back to work? The simple answer is to grow ourselves out of this problem.
Even if Texas were to immediately grow thousands of new jobs in the next 12 months, the State of Texas would still face an employment challenge. Demand for high-skilled workers (those with college degrees or additional education) and those with technical job skills is growing, while demand for low- and middle-skill workers is falling. The reason for this outcome is because technology and business-process improvements have eliminated whole categories of low-skill jobs, while creating new careers for high-skilled workers .
This problem did not occur overnight. For years government officials have known of these problems but have failed to address them. Texas has now found itself with a increasing number of students that are failing to graduate with a college degree and too few workers with the technical job skills to drive growth in a demanding 21st-century economy.
The truth is very clear. In order to maintain a strong economy, the skills and education gap must be closed soon. By 2020, 60% of all jobs will require a college degree or certificate. Making things worse, graduation rates are very low, especially if you’re poor, part time, African American, Hispanic, or an older worker. Under current circumstances, our state will not have enough skilled workers to compete in a 21st Century economy unless more students from all backgrounds and walks of life graduate with a college degree or job skill.
For the past 14 years, people like former State Representative Gene Seaman, a 10 year veteran of the Texas Legislature,Tom Pauken, a former Commissioner of the Texas Workforce Commission, and others have advocated for dual pathway for high school students. But, their voices of concern went largely unheard.
That is why for the past three years I have proposed that the state education system provide a dual pathway for high school students. Texas education has been mired in the myth that all students want to and should go to college. But that is not so. Some students want or have a need to go to work right away to help their families, while others just want to learn a trade.
Where do we go from here? We must do more. For example, Germany has for many years used a high school vocational training system that is tightly integrated with industry. Students split time between classroom and work and graduate with the right skills and a job. This kind of program can be adapted for the Texas. In fact, the Craft Training Facility in Corpus Christi is an excellent example of what private business can do to fix this kind of problem. From its inception, this project has been privately funded with local investment contributions from the local business community. The business community of the Coastal Bend couldn’t wait on state government to solve a problem they saw coming years ago.
We have plenty of successful examples of private/public partnerships that produce excellent results. One idea that I offer is for the Governor to utilize $90 million of The Texas Enterprise Fund as matching funds to partner with local business communities from all over Texas to duplicate the success of the Craft Training Facility.
Recent years have seen many changes in the delivery system of education in Texas. The allowance of charter schools, home rule school districts, and home schooling has changed the educational system landscape in Texas. While that is true, more can and must be done if Texas is to remain a top job producer in the coming years.
It’s time to re-examine how the state uses state funding to help finance public education. The key to accountability may well lay with the local districts themselves. After all the best form of government is that which is closest to the people. Perhaps it is time to free public schools from the many mandates the legislature has imposed over the years and not hold d funding hostage. Perhaps it is time for the state to get out of the way and allow parents and taxpayers to hold their local districts accountable.
We must also remember to properly address the demand side of the equation. We can do this by first making sure that businesses have every opportunity to create jobs when they see a chance to grow. Texas continues to be a relatively business-friendly state, but there is a lot of room for improvement. We can begin by rethinking how government works. With the proven success of SB 563, all state agencies should implement Lean Six Sigma. This would result in smaller, more efficient government.
By reducing the size and cost of government and by lowering the cost of doing business in Texas companies from all over America will continue to look at Texas as a possible home for their business. Multinationals want to be here as well. This would all translate into more jobs for Texas families. After all the business of Texas is business.
Our jobs challenge is complex and it has been building for many years. The solutions will need to be multifaceted, efficient, effective, and flexible. The traditional solutions of past years cannot solve the problems of today. Rather, in a dynamic global economy, skill requirements will change rapidly, thereby requiring education and training systems to be more adaptable. Texas needs leaders who envision the possibilities of tomorrow today.
Thank you for allowing me to share these thoughts. Until, next week God bless you and may God continue to bless Texas.