The Tyler community must create a “college and career culture.”
That’s the ultimate goal with what the educational system is doing, Ken Lamartiniere, CTE (career and technical education) coordinator for the Region 7 Education Service Center, said Thursday during “The 21st Century Workforce” Seminar.
Workforce Solutions East Texas and the Tyler Area Business Education Council partnered to present the free event, which focused on the future supply of the workforce, the educational system and the employment future.
Lamartiniere talked about House Bill 5 and graduation requirements in Texas so attendees could have a better understanding of changes in education and the importance of the collaboration being made between business and education communities. He said improving economic development was the common goal.
Region 7 is one of 20 education service centers in Texas and provides services to 106 school districts and charter schools in 17 counties in East Texas.
Lamartiniere said the nature of education has changed. What was once referred to as vocational training, such as high school shop class, is now called career and technical education. He said there are a wide variety of options available for students to prepare themselves to transition from secondary education into the workforce or to further their education. For that to happen, the partnership with the business community will become even more important, he added.
There are 16 career clusters, or programs of study, available. They include such industries as agriculture, food, arts, construction, business management, finance, government and public administration, tourism, information technology, human services, manufacturing, marketing, engineering, mathematics and logistics.
Some students have a hard time seeing the relevancy of classes they are taking with how it will be used in the workforce, Lamartiniere said. They need to understand how taking algebra can help them be successful in a career, as well as understand how technical skills and soft skills are necessary for the workforce.
With House Bill 5, students can specify in writing an “endorsement” the student intends to learn upon entering the ninth grade. The concept is to help students focus on the career pathway they want to take and enroll in classes to support that. Students can enroll in more than one endorsement to provide options, he said.
The five endorsement areas are science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM; business and industry; public services; arts and humanities; and multidisciplinary studies.
Students can acquire 155 business- and industry-recognized certifications and licenses on their diplomas and transcripts to help them get jobs out of high school. Employers need to have communications with school districts to align training certificates acquired with the needs of the workforce, Lamartiniere said.
“The more information is shared, we know the more effective we will be to provide that workforce,” he said.
Last year in the region, 87 students obtained certifications in general computer skills, 50 students in Adobe Photoshop, 247 in Microsoft Office Specialist, 168 in registered nurse aide and 142 in welding. One student received a certification for engine repair, he said, adding that they need to look at the needs for the automotive repair industry.
In Region 7 in July, the largest number of job postings was 1,195 for truck drivers, he said. That was followed by 643 for registered nurses and 494 for retail sales.
Mick Normington, business specialist for the Labor Market Division of the Texas Workforce Commission, talked about the labor market in Texas and the region. He said most areas would “give their left arm to have the workforce you have here.”
Truck driving jobs might be the best economic indicator, Normington said. When the economy is doing better, more people and businesses order things that have to be delivered by truck drivers. The number of truck driving workers and their wages are going up, which indicates the local economy is trending upward, he said.
The most demand for jobs in Smith County is for heavy/tractor trailer truck drivers. He said the area has the most wanted job postings for drivers in the state and the demand has grown by more than 30 percent for the last couple of years.
Normington gave a 90-day snapshot of the most in-demand job postings in the state and Smith County. In the last three years, he said they have seen a big spike in the words manager, supervisor and degree used in the postings.
While there were a lot of truck drivers wanted, he said Smith County only had four postings for clergy, three for bartenders and three for geoscientists – all of which he called “shockingly low.”
The fastest growing industry in the area and in Texas is food preparation (fast food) workers. He said it is expected to be the No. 1 growth industry for the rest of the decade.
The Top 5 industries expected to add the most jobs from 2010-20 in East Texas are fast food workers, registered nurses, personal care aides, elementary school teachers and retail sales, Normington said.
He said there is a lot of growth in Smith County of people in their late teens and early 20s, as well as people older than 60.
Generation X, made of people 33 to 48, are the dominant members of the workforce in Texas, while Baby Boomers, age 48 to 67, are dominant in every other state, he said. The Millennium Generation, people 19 to 33, are bigger than the Baby Boom Generation and have the highest unemployment rate in Texas, he said, adding that there is a massive shortage in jobs for people in their 20s.
From 2003-12 there has been a more than 21 percent increase of workers older than 65 and a decrease of more than 53 percent of workers in their 20s, he said, adding that it is not a healthy trend for the workforce.
He said 43 percent of job listings on www.workintexas.com require at least an associate’s degree while 85 percent of job seekers do not have an associate’s degree.
“This is a dangerous situation … You cannot allow this trend to continue,” he told the group.
He said the demand for an associate’s degree has more than doubled in the last year. People do not have to get a bachelor’s degree to get a job in Texas, but there are people with associate’s degrees making more than those with master’s degrees.
The reality is the labor market is asking for people with a little more education. More education to get better paying jobs starts with getting a high school diploma.
“You do not increase wealth in any community as fast as you do by simply increasing the high school graduation rate,” Normington said, adding that increasing graduates is one of the most important economic tools.
Rhonda McGrath, business services manager for Workforce Solutions East Texas, said about 60 business representatives and educators attended the seminar. She said they were happy to partner with the Business Education Council on the issues that affects the community’s schools and workforce.
Christi Khalaf, executive director of the Business Education Council, said their mission is to improve education outcomes by involving the business community.
The Business Education Council and Workforce Solutions East Texas will be joined by Region 7 Education Service Center and the Longview and Kilgore economic development corporations to present a Business and Education Partnership Forum from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Feb. 27 at the Region 7 facilities in Kilgore. The forum is for school districts, higher education, workforce professionals and regional employers to network and build partnerships. For more information, contact Lamartiniere at 903-988-6904.