Improving the Texas workforce system for the benefit of all Texans

Last week we announced the launch of Aim Hire Texas, a new initiative to improve and grow the Texas talent pipeline, now and far into the future.  Texas2036 is leading this consortium with impressive allies including the Commit Partnership, Dallas Regional Chamber, Greater Houston Partnership, Texas Association of Community Colleges, Texas Rural Funders, and United Ways of Texas.  And now even more organizations are talking about joining the effort, creating a broad statewide force for better data that illuminates Texans’ career success in jobs of the future, drives more effective and innovative training programs, and builds better coordination and planning across organizations and agencies.  All of this is leading to the implementation of proven programs that match more Texans with good jobs—in every region of the state.

This year, sudden job losses resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic have spurred awareness of labor force issues that have existed for years in Texas, even as our economy was robust and unemployment was low.  New residents, for example, often arrive in Texas with more education and technical skills than native Texans.  Companies can’t rely solely on newcomers to produce the skilled employees they need, yet not enough native Texans are obtaining a college degree or the technical training that most growing job fields require. Too often, our students are not given a clear picture of which jobs will lead to a living wage and a stable career, because the data connecting education and career success hasn’t been collected in one place.  The result: only 56% of Texas households bring home a living wage, meaning the prosperity of Texas is not being shared as widely as it could be.

Collecting and sharing better data must be a top priority.  With the help of our key partners and consultants, Aim Hire Texas is developing a strategic plan to better align public and private data. This work will tie education and training resources more directly to high-growth and high-wage jobs, and help regions and industries in the state implement programs that train Texans for the jobs of the future.

The good news is that key state agencies are ready to rethink traditional practices and to invest in better data.  We are working closely with them now, just as we did earlier this year in coordinating the state’s health data.  Much of our work will support and supplement the work of the Texas Education Agency, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and the Texas Workforce Commission by bringing in the private sector more directly and leveraging new private data sources from companies like Burning Glass.

Aim Hire Texas is well on its way to implementing actionable workforce solutions informed by real data: we expect to have a legislative agenda that addresses our most pressing workforce issues prepared for the upcoming 2021 session.  We want the State to have the information it needs to focus its economic development incentives and education and training programs on marketable skills and proven career success. We will encourage the State and its institutions to measure these programs rigorously and hold them accountable for results that are valuable to both employers and employees.  We want Texans and employers to have more useful sources of transparent information about quality jobs with a future, and the best training programs to produce skilled employees.  And we are looking at equity impacts in all of these areas to make sure that we identify and eliminate barriers that keep all Texans from having equal access to good job opportunities.

The COVID-19 pandemic may have exposed underlying challenges with our labor force, but there is a great readiness and confidence that we can adjust our sights quickly and elevate our goals to develop more Texas talent.  Together with our partners throughout the state, we will be taking the first steps to address these issues by equipping lawmakers, students, workers, and employers with the tools needed to ensure Texas remains the best place to live and work, today and in the future.

This undertaking would not be possible without the support of donors across the state who believe a long-range plan—one that is backed by hard data—is the best path toward securing Texas’s wellbeing into the bicentennial and beyond.  To support this work and prepare Texans for the jobs of the future, contact Hans Voss.

Lee Jackson is Chancellor Emeritus of the University of North Texas System, as well as former Dallas County Judge and Business and Commerce Committee Chairman in the Texas House of Representatives. He was named one of Texas’ Ten Best Legislators by Texas Monthly in 1983 and D Magazine named him Dallas’ Best Public Official in 1996 .