A mighty engine: The Texas labor force

This is a preview of our Texas 2036 newsletter celebrating the state’s labor force. To receive this weekly look at our work, sign up here.

Making Texas the best place to work

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🎉 We celebrated Labor Day this week. 🎉

Now, let’s celebrate the Texas labor force. Did you know these numbers?

  • 15 million: the number of Texans in the labor force
  • 644,000: the number of employers in Texas
  • 29: the number of consecutive months that Texas has added jobs

By the way, these are all historically unprecedented figures for the Lone Star State. 🤯

Source: Texas Workforce Commission

A successful year for workforce under the Dome:

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Workforce has long been a priority for Texas 2036. This legislative session, we supported multiple successful workforce initiatives across multiple areas. Here are some of the highlights:

  • State workforce: Lawmakers provided much-needed pay raises for agency and legislative staff, including targeted pay raises for some of the highest-demand, highest turnover positions. This effort was coupled with benefits reform that included incorporating parental leave for state employees.
  • Aerospace: Lawmakers established the Texas Space Commission, an initiative meant to preserve Texas’ leading position in aerospace research and exploration. This, too, is an investment in the state’s workforce, because, with an average annual wage of $102,933, aerospace sector earnings are 44% higher than the overall state average.
  • Water/Wastewater Systems: Lawmakers took steps to address a shortage of qualified personnel to work at water utilities. They did so by incentivizing entry-level positions into our water workforce by establishing a provisional certification program for certain wastewater operators.
    • 💧 What are water utilities doing to attract the next generation of workers? Check out this conversation on new efforts to encourage more young Texans to take up a career in water systems.
    • 🚰 Also, Texas 2036 Senior Policy Advisor Jeremy Mazur recaps this year’s legislative work on water infrastructure in the Texas Water Journal. In his judgment, the needle moved forward.

👉 Read more about our legislative accomplishments in the 2023 Legislative Report.

Rethinking community colleges and the workforce of the future:

Through a cohesive and intertwined package of reforms that systemically prioritizes outcomes and workforce value in the state’s long-term funding formulas, Texas is leading the nation in changing the way we approach and view higher education.

One way to do this is to carefully evaluate what makes a workforce credential valuable in the sense that it aligns a worker with a high-value job that provides a family-sustaining wage.

Last month, Texas 2036 education and workforce policy advisor Renzo Soto published a quick guide to what makes a credential valuable.

Get smart in a hurry… understanding credentials of value in three easy pieces:
🎓 What is the minimal threshold value?
🎓 Creating best pathways to jobs
🎓 Stacking the credentials

🌅 Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes in the workforce: In its Labor Day editorial, The Washington Post editorial board explodes the myth of a lazy Gen Z, noting that labor force “participation among 16- to 24-year-olds has fully recovered from the pandemic, and participation among teens in the past year has been the highest since 2009.”

Elsewhere, The 19th covers the recovery of women in the workforce after the COVID-19 pandemic, which was tagged “the first women’s recession.”

We’ve noted previously the resiliency of Texas women in the workforce in our in-depth study of post-pandemic workforce trends, conducted by Alexander Research and Consulting and released earlier this year.

Here’s a key stat from that report: As the country emerged from the pandemic in 2021, labor force participation for Texas women increased from 70.8% to 71.1%. Labor force participation for men, however, decreased from 84.4% to 83.9%.

Partnerships to support the workforce pipeline 💪:

Employers across Texas are forming partnerships with both high schools and institutes of higher education with the goal of preparing the workers that they will need for the jobs of the future.

Here are a couple of examples in the news from just last week:

🚜 Holt Cat: One of the nation’s largest dealers of Caterpillar construction equipment, the company partnered with a San Antonio school district on an internship program to train and hire shop technicians.

💻 Samsung Electronics: The company announced a $3.7 million donation to UT-Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering to help make it both the premier semiconductor education and research and a feeder of new talent for Samsung, which is building a $17 billion semiconductor chip factory in Taylor, northeast of Austin.

Getting ready for 2036. What’s to be done on workforce? 🤔

To keep this job-generating dynamo of an economy going, policymakers and stakeholders must pay attention to this one overriding trend: closing the attainment gap.

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As part of its 2021 analysis of workforce issues, the Aim Hire Texas coalition identified this concerning trend of the massive drop from 2011 through 2019 in high-wage jobs available to those with a high school diploma or less.

labor day workforce newsletter attainment graphic2Over the same time period, the focus of job growth in Texas was in low and middle wage jobs, a phenomenon more pronounced here than in the nation as a whole.

Solid strategies to create better alignments between educational attainment and workforce needs along with the better identification of postsecondary credentials with real workplace value hold the key to creating the workforce that will make Texas the best place to live, work and raise a family through 2036 and beyond.

labor day workforce newsletter action center imageWe want to hear from you 🫵

Which generation do you think is best suited for today’s workforce?

Let us know in our short survey.



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