America has some challenging days ahead when it comes to filling manufacturing positions.
In fact, some industry experts compare the situation to a “perfect storm” fueled by retiring Baby Boomers, insufficient STEM education for American youth, and an opioid epidemic that is especially plaguing manufacturing-centric regions of the United States.
This dismal forecast dovetails with the consensus of other industry projections, including the oft-cited 2015 study done by the Manufacturing Institute, a Washington-based think tank, and Deloitte LLC, which said over the next decade, 3.4 million manufacturing jobs are expected to become available.
What’s alarming is that a skills gap could result in 2 million of those jobs remaining unfilled by 2025.
These insights have many industries on edge while communities and educational institutions are scrambling to renew interest in manufacturing careers.
A Workforce Crisis
At an April 2018 state of the current workforce presentation, Texas State Technical College (TSTC) Chancellor and CEO Michael Reeser told an audience of city, educational, and business leaders in Midlothian that, like most states, Texas has a workforce crisis.
He highlighted a lack of “middle skills” as a key problem. In other words, there are not enough employees for the jobs that fall between low-skill jobs, which call for a high school diploma or less, and high-skill jobs, which require a bachelor’s degree or higher.
“For our economic prosperity to remain the envy of other states, Texas must focus on growing its technically skilled workforce,” said Reeser.
This unique college system is the only state-supported technical college in Texas.
Further, TSTC’s 10 campuses operate on a value-added funding formula based on graduates’ average earnings above minimum wage and the system’s economic value to the state. TSTC is the only college in America to adopt a funding model based entirely on student employment outcomes.
Through this progressive institution, students can sharpen skills thanks to a robust offering of programs ranging from cyber security, diesel equipment technology, and welding to precision machining technology, industrial maintenance, avionics technology, and so much more.
Funding a High-Tech Future
Located in the southern Dallas-Ft. Worth metro, the community of Midlothian understands the value of technical education.
The rapidly expanding city of 37,000 boasts a heritage built on steel, cement, quality education, and upscale country living.
The city’s connection with the manufacturing industry was an important catalyst behind the creation of the Midlothian Workforce/Careers Scholarship Fund.
In partnership with local industry, Midlothian Economic Development (MED) is providing funds to The TSTC Foundation’s Texan Success Scholarship to benefit TSTC students from Midlothian or from within the boundaries of the Midlothian Independent School District (MISD).
“The goal of this scholarship program is to directly impact Midlothian area residents enrolling at TSTC to ultimately provide more trained technicians to the local workforce and, specifically, our industry partners in the area,” said Marcus Balch, provost for TSTC North Texas in Red Oak.
He said that after students apply to be considered for a scholarship, TSTC’s Student Recruitment team will make selections based on interaction with prospective students and their families.
Input from counselors, teachers, and community leaders will also be considered. Graduates of MISD and residents of Midlothian are eligible for the $1000 scholarships.
“There isn’t a better value than TSTC in higher education right now,” said Balch. “Technicians are in high demand in the region and state right now – and will be for years to come – as the state faces the skills gap.”
He noted that for an investment of approximately $6,000, a student can earn a technical certificate from TSTC and, for approximately $12,000, an associate of applied science degree.
“Return on that investment is like no other,” said Balch. “Many of our graduates start out making $40,000 or more each year and see rapid increases as they gain experience.”
Connecting for Excellence
A mission to meet the workforce needs of local industry – and companies still yet to come – has spurred Midlothian city leaders to strengthen connections between corporate, educational, and city leaders.
The Midlothian Workforce/Careers Scholarship Fund is proof that tangible solutions can be achieved through creative discussion, thoughtful planning, and strategic collaboration.
As the city evolves with unprecedented levels of growth, it is taking steps to secure a solid workforce and supportive business environment for decades to come.
“Partnerships like this one are critical to addressing the skills gap and helping to train more middle-skilled workers,” said Balch. “Partnerships like this are very unique. It isn’t often that the local school district, economic development, industry, and training institutions collaborate at this level. This is an innovative collaboration to accelerate TSTC enrollment and provide more graduates to industry.”