Workforce Experts and Business Leaders Agree: Community Colleges are Key

Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) Chairman Bryan Daniel testified this week before the Texas Commission on Community College Finance on the benefits of providing Texans with options for short-term credentials. Daniel pointed to several innovative ways Community Colleges can play a key role in assisting over 1 million, hard-working Texans develop the middle skills — defined as more than a high school diploma or equivalency but less than a four-year degree — that will put them on a path of success for in-demand, higher-wage careers.

“There’s an opportunity here for some 1.4 million Texans to improve their position by receiving some sort of post-secondary credentialing,” TWC Chairman Bryan Daniel said. “There’s going to have to be some innovative thinking that takes place. I believe apprenticeship programs, paid internships programs and other kinds of creative programs can supplement what the community colleges can and are willing to do to help us focus on this middle skilled gap and get it solved.”

Chairman Daniel’s testimony comes the same week that Texas 2036 Executive Vice President A.J. Rodriguez and president and CEO of the Texas Association of Business Glenn Hamer explained the critical role community colleges play in preparing Texans for success:

Texas has 50 two-year community college districts with campuses across the state. More than 660,000 Texans are currently enrolled in classes to attain the skills and credentials needed for immediate jobs or build toward four-year bachelor’s degrees. Community colleges help upskill and reskill Texas workers and are open to any Texan.

In advance of the 2023 legislative session – what many are hoping will become a “workforce session” – it is essential to look at community colleges’ role in workforce development. It is also crucial that we examine why we place last among large states in the percentage of our population with postsecondary credentials.

To accomplish this, the Texas Legislature established the Commission on Community College Finance, which held its first hearings this week in Austin. Its mission is to craft recommendations for the Legislature to establish a state funding formula and appropriate funding levels to sustain viable community college education and training programs throughout the state.

This mission should also include looking at how Texas’ community colleges can partner with high schools, employers, and four-year colleges to build career pathways that lead to good-paying jobs. The commission should also evaluate the availability and kinds of courses offered to Texas students.

Workforce experts and business leaders agree: community colleges are a key component of preparing our growing population to contribute to our state’s prosperity, particularly given automation technologies and other disruptions that will have an impact on future workforce needs.