WESLACO, Texas – In Texas today, 54 percent of jobs in Texas are considered middle-skill, meaning that they require a postsecondary credential beyond high school but less than a bachelor’s degree. 

However, only 45 percent of Texans are sufficiently trained for these types of jobs — which leaves a 9-percentage point “middle skills gap” of about 1.4 million Texans.

This is according to the National Skills Coalition. The statistics are contained in a new report commissioned by 20 leading business and education organizations. The 20 organizations are urging state policymakers to strengthen funding for community colleges in Texas. 

Without significant, immediate action, the report states, the current system will fail to provide Texas employers with the skilled workforce they need while simultaneously putting an entire generation of Texans at risk of being unable to participate in the 21st century economy. 

They 20 business and education organizations out that a growing skilled workforce shortage that has left over a million job openings across Texas unfilled as of March 2022. 

The Rio Grande Valley Partnership, the Valley’s regional chamber of commerce, is one of the organizations that commissioned the report. Its CEO, Sergio Contreras, CEO Atlas, Hall & Rodriguez LLP, and board member and former President of the RGV Partnership (pictured above) said: 

“Community colleges offer our best chance at preparing the most students for the jobs of the future, and business leaders understand this. The Texas Commission on Community College Finance should seek to reward and enhance these kinds of collaborations across the private and educational sectors. By increasing credential completion and industry alignment, we can ensure more members of our community can build well-staffed businesses and earn family-sustaining wages.” 

Contreras said the architecture, engineering and construction sector in the RGV is valued at $13 billion and projected to add hundreds of jobs in the next four years at an average salary of over $45,000. But even for well-paying positions requiring only a certification, the labor market is so limited that firms have resorted to poaching from one another– a tactic they recognize is not sustainable as they invest more and more into retraining. 

A postsecondary credential is essential to participate in the 21st century workforce – but it doesn’t have to be a four-year degree, Contreras noted. The healthcare and biosciences industry in the Valley is projected to add over 40,000 jobs in the next decade, many of which require some college but not necessarily a four-year degree. 

The Texas Commission on Community College Finance was set up to study community college funding during the current interim. It consists of 15 members, including community college leaders, business representatives, and Texas legislators. One of its members is state Rep. Oscar Longoria of La Joya. The Commission is expected to release its own findings in the fall of 2022 after eight months of meetings. 

The 20 business and education groups that have produced the new report want are offering key policy recommendations to the Texas Commission on Community College Finance.

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