How House Bill 5 Affects the Workforce Skills Gap


House Bill 5 changed everything for the workforce skills gap.

On June 10, 2013, the bill was signed into law, lowering the number of required end-of-course exams that high schoolers in Texas must pass to graduate from 15 down to five.And that’s not all HB5 accomplished; it offered Texas students flexible and more realistic opportunities to consider for their future.

Starting in eighth grade, students can now select an “endorsement” (much like a college major), which will guide them through their high school coursework as well as their college or workforce focus in future years.

House Bill 5 also places a greater emphasis on the relationship between coursework and postsecondary plans. The landmark legislation highlights coursework and career paths for some of the most in-demand technical jobs in Texas.

House Bill 5’s Pathway to Higher Education

House Bill 5 made fundamental changes in the current pathway to graduation by replacing the existing recommended high-school program with a 22-credit Foundation High School Program.

Before HB5, students were forced to take four years of math, science, English, and history, leaving little room for them to pursue electives or technical courses like automotive, agriculture, business, and construction classes.

The bill also provides the opportunity for students who plan to attend a college or university to complete four additional credits to earn endorsements in specific areas of study. The endorsement areas include STEM, business and industry, public service, arts and humanities, and multidisciplinary studies.

While all high school graduates are eligible to apply for admission to Texas colleges, only students who complete the additional credits for the endorsement will be eligible for the “10 percent rule.” This rule allows students to automatically gain admission to any college by graduating in the top 10 percent of their class.

Taking the Technical Training Route

With the workforce skills gap widening, House Bill 5 was also designed to help solve the shortage by preparing those students who do not plan to enter college for skilled jobs immediately after graduation.

Over the years, Texas business leaders have touted the de-emphasis on technical training, and how it has resulted in a shortage of skilled labor for manufacturing and other technical jobs.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs were added in February 2019, after increasing by an average of 22,000 per month over the past year. While a lower unemployment rate is good news for the economy, the manufacturing industry struggles to fill these roles with skilled workers to accommodate continued growth.

Due to a lack of technical training and awareness of available jobs, younger generations are less likely to pursue a manufacturing career than previous generations. Even those who are equipped to handle skilled manufacturing work are grappling to find these job opportunities on their own.

HB5 helps graduate more students who are ready to go into these skilled jobs by providing a more direct, attainable pathway.

How Has HB5 Impacted Career Development?

Several years after the passing of House Bill 5, many districts are reporting that a large percentage of students are choosing trade classes. For example, more than 60 percent of Abilene Independent School District students have enrolled in 16 of the HB5 career endorsement paths.

While not directly attributed to HB5, enrollment in Texas colleges and universities is notably up to 1.5 million students as of fall 2017, an increase from 1.4 million students six years ago.

More than anything, House Bill 5 is offering students the ability to get a taste of their future, whether it be college or the workforce. With so many technical jobs and higher education options, giving students a pathway to their future career is a huge benefit for Texas industries.

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