To Help Texas’s Ailing Economy, Align Higher Ed & Workforce

Information is generally underrated as an economic development tool.

Right now, nearly 2 million Texans are collecting unemployment relief. Especially as many contemplate seeking out new skills and retool for new industries, they need to know what career paths offer the most opportunity.

Similarly, colleges and universities can play a critical role for these Texans in need, offering them degree, certificate and training programs that are most likely to connect them with jobs. But they need to know from employers what skills are most needed so they can market and emphasize those programs to prospective students.

That requires better communication between higher education institutions and employers in both the public and private sectors. Those employers, in turn, have to do more to tell colleges and universities, on a broad scale, what skills are needed and what jobs are available.

Such basic information-sharing would represent a significant step forward in the relationships between the state’s postsecondary organizations that train Texas’s workforce and the companies and agencies that put Texans to work. Insufficient alignment between these sectors risks slowing Texas’ recovery from the pandemic.

The need for such an alignment is huge. By 2036, the year Texas turns 200, 71% of the state’s jobs will require at least some form of postsecondary education. However, only 32% of Texas high school graduates earn a degree or credential within 6 years of graduation.

The state should work to more than double that percentage to 75%. It can start by assessing and sharing more information about the potential value of various postsecondary programs publicly. The state also can more proactively incentivize values like completion and equity at the community college level, reduce barriers around things like course transfers, and improve education and workforce data to help alignment efforts.

Texas 2036 has studied the pipeline between K-12 schools and the workforce at length — you can access some of our data through our website. You also can follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram as we follow this issue through the 2021 Texas Legislative Session and beyond.

Education is Texas’s most important economic asset. Let’s put it to work rebuilding the economy.