Even with looming uncertainty in the economy, Collin County remains a hot place to land a job, outpacing the national hiring growth rate of 0.7% by 18.7% from 2016 to 2021, according to Workforce Solutions for North Central Texas. The county added 83,855 jobs over the last five years with another 78,576 projected through 2026.
But how do you find people to fill all those openings? That’s where the community needs to collaborate to come up with solutions.
“This is a great time to be in North Texas,” said Susan Hoff, Chief Strategy and Impact Officer for United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, participating in a panel on workforce development hosted by the Collin County Business Alliance. "We have job openings and job growth, but we also have a lot of people who don't have the skills to get and keep those jobs that will earn a living wage and drive them toward a career path."
STOP, COLLABORATE AND LISTEN
If businesses need people with skills, they've got to partner with schools, universities, and non-profits — and those institutions are happy to oblige.
“We bring a whole robust partnership program with us," said Phedra Redifer, Executive Director of Workforce Solutions for North Central Texas. "We listen to what the employer’s needs are, and then we start throwing together all of the resources that we have to build whatever it is that’s going to solve their challenge."
Hilti North America, headquartered in Plano, partnered with Susan Hoff and United Way to create the "Women in Construction" workforce development program in South Dallas with the mission of bringing more women into the construction industry by providing training, job placement, and support services along the way.
"The vast majority of women who have gone through this walk out with a job," said Hoff. "They walk out with the tools they need. And from the Hilti side, also some support and mentorship, particularly for women who are entering into a field that is presumed predominantly male."
"It is not as easy as it would be putting an ad in the paper and people are going to plop there," said Martina McIsaac, CEO of Hilti North America. "It’s going to be more work, but there are more resources there."
It’s more than just training or retraining people.
"We’ve always called the Texas Miracle in terms of being the best place to be, the best state, or so I would say the best part of the state," said Hoff. "But it will only be that way if we have the resources to support everyone.”
That means providing “wraparound services”: affordable housing close to work, access to reliable transportation, and scholarships for childcare programs.
"I encourage all of you to think big," said Redifer. "Don't be limited on what you always thought worked."
Workforce Solutions for North Central Texas, she added, "actually offers gas cards for those who need to get to their places of employment."
GO WHERE THE ACTION IS
Adam Fein, Vice President for Digital Strategy and Innovation at the University of North Texas, learned to be flexible when the pandemic shuttered schools and colleges around the world in 2020. His team moved about 7,500 UNT courses online in about a week.
Employers and educators need to stay nimble like that.
"Our students want options, flexibility to be able to take a couple courses at Denton, one in Frisco, one online," he said, "They want to be able to make their own schedule in a way that works for them."
A MATTER OF DEGREES
College can be your path to a solid career, even if you don't go for a traditional bachelor's degree.
"For so long, the societal expectation has been the four-year degree," said Dr. Roger Widmer, Chief Operating Officer of Collin Corporate College. "I’m not bashing the four-year degree. The four-year degree will always be with us. But there are middle skill positions that are begging to be filled, that provide a livable wage, that require only some college or high school."
YOU HAVE BEEN WELL-TRAINED, MY YOUNG APPRENTICE
Often the best training is on-the-job training, which can take the form of an old-school apprenticeship.
"Apprenticeship programs are really the key to all of the employers in trying to nurture, solve, and resolve their dried-up talent pipeline," said Phedra Redifer. "We have statistics to show that 91 percent of the people who actually fulfill the apprenticeship program stay with that company and hire on as a full-time employee."
DON’T FORGET A CLASSIC: INTERNSHIPS
Paul Quinn College, the historically Black university based in Dallas, made a name for itself by offering higher ed with an emphasis on real-world work experience. PQC expanded its internship-intensive “Urban Work College Model” to Plano in recent years, partnering with Collin County companies like Toyota, NTT Data, JP Morgan Chase and Capital One to go beyond the classroom into the workplace to develop career skills while earning money for tuition and housing.
And the partnership pays off when employers and job seekers can make that connection.
“We’re only as successful when we’re all together,” said Martina McIsaac.