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Commentary: The new Texas model is upskilling

Date Published
Aug 01, 2019
Business, General Info

By Gov. Greg Abbott on Statesman

Posted Jul 31, 2019 at 9:37 AM; Updated Jul 31, 2019 at 9:37 AM


Smart businesses in Texas are growing their bottom line and their workforce by investing in earn-while-you-learn apprenticeship programs that offer “upskilling” opportunities.

The Texas economy is booming. Jobs are growing here. Businesses are growing here. And while other states are losing population, we are gaining. Even with that record population growth, the unemployment rate in Texas just hit a historic new low.

All of that economic momentum is proof the Texas Model works.

Yet a critical business challenge identified in a survey of Texas employers is meeting the increasing demand for new workers with technical skills and industry experience. And with the continuing growth in our manufacturing, energy, and commercial construction sectors—and in the post-Hurricane Harvey world of rebuilding—middle-skill professionals like fabricators, welders, plumbers, electricians, and pipefitters are especially in high demand.

Meeting the changing needs of job creators is paramount to ensure Texas remains the top state for business expansion.

That is why we are working aggressively to further align curriculum in our schools and higher education institutions to meet industry demands, including reforms to the state’s school finance system this recent legislative session to better prepare our high school graduates for college, career, or military success.

But it is employers themselves who today already hold the key to filling any skills gaps in their markets.

Smart businesses in Texas are growing their bottom line and their workforce by investing in apprenticeship programs that offer “upskilling” opportunities for unemployed or underemployed Texans.

Texans like Stacia Brightmon. After proudly serving our nation for five years, she found that her military qualifications were not a match for the market she was in. Employers were looking for more — more than a high school diploma. So Stacia went back to school and earned a degree in finance. But employers were again looking for more — more technical skills and more industry experience. After a series of minimum wage jobs, the ends just didn’t meet for this single mother of two boys. Stacia was looking for more for her family.

The Texas Workforce Commission connected Stacia to an “earn-while-you-learn” apprenticeship program for women and military veterans offered in partnership with S&B Engineers and Constructors, an employer in her area. Stacia went from unemployed to earning $16 an hour during the intensive 4-month apprenticeship training program. And on graduation, then certified as a pipefitter assistant, she was guaranteed full-time employment, earning $28 an hour.

Employers investing in apprenticeship programs experience improved recruitment and reduced turnover, and gain a pipeline of skilled employees and future managers.

The Texas Workforce Commission offers Texas employers a complete toolbox of customized skills development programs, including support for apprenticeship programs offering paid on-the-job training and classroom instruction for in-demand skilled trades and occupations.

The workforce commission provides funds to local education agencies and apprenticeship committees to support a portion of the costs for the job-related classroom instruction in registered apprenticeship programs. The completion rate for apprentices in these programs is more than 80 percent.

If you are a Texas employer wanting to grow your workforce and your bottom line, I invite you to invest in earn-while-you-learn apprenticeship programs. The Texas Workforce Commission is ready to assist you at [email protected].

With employers taking the lead, upskilling apprenticeship programs develop the skills Texas businesses need to succeed today — and the skills Texans need to advance tomorrow.

That is the new model of success for Texas and for the nation.