There are no shortcuts when it comes to manufacturing a skilled workforce for the high-tech automotive, aerospace and aviation industries.
The answer, instead, calls for focused vision and the strategic development of quality education and specialized training supported by state and local funding initiatives.
These ingredients are key to molding a workforce capable of meeting current and future industry demands.
In North Texas, efforts are ongoing to support the operations of companies whose everyday missions encompass semiconductor, motor vehicle parts, aircraft and engine parts manufacturing, welding, assembly, sorting, testing, machining – and much more.
A hotbed of activity, North Texas is home to large and small companies; iconic names and industry newcomers.
While a host of location factors have drawn these companies to the area over time, it is the people that truly keep these sophisticated facilities humming.
Centered for success
Located in Ellis County on the southern edge of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, the rapidly growing community of Midlothian offers prime real estate for manufacturing-oriented firms thanks to two industrial parks, RailPort and Midlothian Business Park.
Companies, developers, and site consultants are taking notice of the assets offered by this emerging community.
The city of roughly 37,000 – and counting – is not only minutes away from cosmopolitan amenities and a network of uncongested highways, but also delivers access to a talent pool that is as deep as it is wide.
In fact, within a 50-mile radius of Midlothian, there are 84,735 people employed in the automotive, aerospace and metal fabrication industries who earn an average of $116,785 annually, according to data from labor market analytics firm Emsi.
These figures include the counties of Ellis, Tarrant, Dallas, Johnson and Rockwall, as well as portions of 12 other counties.
In other words, the 50-mile radius around Midlothian is stocked with an ample supply of people proficient in welding, cutting, soldering, machining, inspecting, sampling, and electrical skills.
The sky’s the limit
Texas’ high in-migration rate means there is never a shortage of people in the state, but a comprehensive educational system is paramount to ensuring that training opportunities exist for residents, as well.
Over the years, the Texas workforce has proven reliable, efficient and productive, and the North Texas region serves up tremendous testament to its competency.
This is due, in no small part, to Texas’ robust intellectual foundation built on 38 public universities and 50 community college districts.
But it is exciting public-private partnerships that have been instrumental in fueling customized skills training so vital to long-term industry success.
North Texas is home to the state’s highest concentration of aerospace manufacturing workers, the headquarters of two major airlines, and operations of renowned aircraft manufacturers, including Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and Bell Helicopter.
Other regional aerospace companies include Triumph Aerostructures-Vought Aircraft Division, New York-based defense contractor L3 Technologies, and PCC Aerostructures – Progressive.
These companies’ efficient operations have led to monumental success.
In fact, in November 2017, as reported in the Dallas Business Journal, within just one week, three DFW aerospace companies were awarded $300 million dollars in U.S. Department of Defense contracts:
- L3 Technologies — $210 million
- L3 Technologies — $71 million
- Raytheon — $7.2 million
- Lockheed Martin — $16.2 million
Without a doubt, quality employees have helped propel these companies forward.
Texas’ Skills Development Fund affords companies the opportunity to enhance job skills through collaboration with communities and technical colleges, Workforce Development Boards and regional economic development partners.
As one example, after receiving a $1.5 million Skills Development Fund from the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) in September 2016, Fort Worth’s Lockheed Martin partnered with Tarrant County College to provide job training for 1,200 new and incumbent workers.
The grant helped Lockheed provide customized, focused instruction on aircraft assembly, electrical engineering and computer aided engineering processes. Trainees included aeronautical engineers, avionics technicians, electrical engineers and systems administrators.
Lockheed has gone even further to help encourage postsecondary students to prepare for aerospace careers by creating the “Gotta Jet?” career awareness campaign and by partnering with The University of Texas at Arlington and the North Central Texas Council of Governments for an aerospace gaming application.
Additionally, since 2007, the innovative company has also partnered with Project Lead The Way to address the nation’s critical need for future engineers, computer scientists, and math- and science-trained professionals, and to equip all students with the knowledge and skills they need to thrive.
Hands-on training in demand
Closer to Midlothian, the Texas State Technical College North Texas campus in Red Oak is assisting area companies through 10 programs which offer degrees, industry certificates and customized skills training options.
One of 10 TSTC campuses throughout the state, the North Texas campus houses many of TSTC’s high-tech, advanced workforce programs with state-of-the-art labs for students to develop skills that are critical in the workplace.
Opened in 2014, TSTC’s North Texas campus has been busy assisting students of all ages and area companies with workforce needs through such programs as:
- Computer Aided Drafting & Design Technology
- Computer Networking & Systems Administration
- Cyber Security
- Diesel Equipment Technology
- Electrical Power & Controls
- HVAC Technology
- Industrial Maintenance-Electrical Specialization
- Logistics Technology
- Precision Machining Technology
These valuable skills translate into technical aptitude that empowers students to hit the ground running in the workplace.
“In Red Oak, we offer diesel and logistics degrees,” said Carson Pearce, TSTC’s Waco-based statewide transportation division director. “Those have a link to automotive and aviation because parts and pieces have to move.”
He added that TSTC’s logistics program is his “unsung hero.”
“Logistics deals with everything from what happens in controlling the warehouse functions to manufacturing,” said Pearson. “In the warehouse we have a $250,000 computer automation training device that shows you how to take the box from the ramp, put it on the conveyer belt, bounce it around the assembly line, run it through packaging and out to the delivery truck.”
He noted that industry demand is tremendously high for diesel technology and logistics students who consistently exit the program with not only a degree, but abundant job opportunities.
“We offer workforce experience that industries look for,” said Pearce. “And we maintain that industry standard by bouncing it against advisory panels that are evaluated regularly. If they find that we’re behind or not up to par, we adjust and move to the modern industry.”
Elsewhere in the area, several other colleges – including Eastfield College, North Central Texas College, and Weatherford College, to name a few – offer training and education in the North Texas region in industries related aerospace, automotive, and manufacturing.
Programs include, but are not limited to, automotive technology, welding, precision machining technology, industrial mechanics, and electrical, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC).
Going the distance
The above examples provide just a small glimpse into the diverse tapestry of DFW’s high-tech workforce and showcase how the region’s educational infrastructure and public-private partnerships are filling North Texas’ talent pipeline while addressing employment needs.
Industry experts agree the DFW area is poised for substantial growth across the logistics, aerospace, automotive sectors and more, and a progressive workforce capable of evolving with the changing times will be an important part of that story.
Luckily, when it comes to Texas generating smart business solutions, most would agree this ain’t the state’s first rodeo.