Watch a conversation on higher education and tomorrow’s workforce
The discussion took place at Texas State Technical College’s Waco campus. You can watch the conversation in person or online.
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As Texas faces a projected shortfall in workers to fill jobs in various industries over the next decade, higher education and workforce development leaders say more should be done to support a wider variety of students.
During a Texas Tribune event Thursday, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s chief of staff Melissa Henderson said the board’s revamped strategic plan, Building a Talent Strong Texas, prioritizes equipping not just young adults but also Texans between 25 and 64 with postsecondary credentials. At the same time, panelists at the event stressed the need to provide holistic support to students, especially nontraditional ones like adults returning to school.
Barb Clapp, CEO of Dwyer Workforce Development, which focuses on building the health care workforce, said this means offering wraparound services like child care, transportation, flexibility in learning hours and more — things that will also enhance equity for students from diverse backgrounds. She highlighted the organization’s case management program that can help participants solve problems and keep them on a stable track to complete their education.
“Removing those barriers, you can expect outcomes,” Clapp said.
In addition, higher education leaders discussed their priorities for the upcoming legislative session, especially as the state has an extra $27 billion to spend. Those include recommendations to invest more in financial aid for students and overhaul how community colleges are funded, including transitioning to a model that considers students’ education outcomes.
College leaders on the panel expressed support for these recommendations, especially as rural and small colleges are likely to get more funding under the new structure.
“This would be transformational for us,” said Johnette Edwards McKown, president of McLennan Community College.
Rick Herrera, Texas State Technical College’s vice chancellor and chief student services officer, said his institution is already using the recommended funding structure. It closed some programs and consulted with industry advisory groups to revamp its curriculum to better prepare students for jobs with good earnings.
“If you pick the right measure, it’ll revolutionize the way you approach education as a whole,” Herrera said. “We’re all about placing more Texans in great-paying jobs.”
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