As Central Texas’ population grows, so does its workforce and the jobs needed in the region. Higher education institutions in Williamson County are working to accommodate that need.

Texas State University at Round Rock, Austin Community College at Round Rock and Texas State Technical College in Hutto are spending over $180 million combined to expand programs in health care, technology, manufacturing and skilled trades.

“We definitely have more jobs coming in,” said Kelly Moreno, Workforce Solutions Rural Capital Area chief solutions officer. “We have to anticipate what’s coming down the pipe. That’s why you’re seeing all these expansions in training through [local higher education institutions] because they know what’s coming.”

What's happening

The population of the Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos metropolitan area grew 7.53% between July 2020 and July 2023, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Data shows that jobs in Central Texas have grown by 20% in the past five years, a rate 16.5% higher than the national average.

In the past decade, major employers such as Tesla and Samsung have moved or are moving into the area, bringing hundreds to thousands of jobs with them. On the other hand, industries such as health care and skilled trades are in need of workers as they experience employee shortages and an aging workforce, Moreno said.

Some of the largest area employers, with a combined 18,000 employees, include Dell Technologies, Tesla and Samsung. ACC and TSTC pointed to Samsung’s expansion in Taylor, which is expected to create thousands of semiconductor jobs, as a reason for expanding programs.
The approach

At the TXST campus in Round Rock, a new facility will house the College of Health Professions.

At the ACC Round Rock campus, a new advanced manufacturing program is in the works. In particular, officials are working to expand automotive, construction and welding programs. ACC officials said they also plan to expand the Round Rock campus’s health science programs in the future.

At TSTC in Hutto, officials are working toward a new advanced manufacturing program as well as an expansion to the industrial systems technology program.

Some of the projects happening at area schools include:
  • Austin Community College at Round Rock: $75 million in facility expansions for a new advanced manufacturing program and the current automotive, building construction and welding programs to accommodate the current student population of over 3,600.
  • Texas State Technical College in Hutto: A $54 million project to construct a 95,000-square-foot building for advanced manufacturing programs to accommodate the current student population of over 200.
  • Texas State University Round Rock: Construction of an 81,600-square foot facility, to be known as Esperanza Hall, to house the College of Health. Construction is expected to begin this fall and accommodate the current student population of over 2,000.
The details

In addition to the area’s growth, some industries are already feeling worker shortages, Moreno said.

Texas is experiencing a nursing shortage, and March data from the Texas Center for Nursing Workforce Studies found that by 2036 there could be a shortage of 56,000 registered nurses. Matt Hoffman, Texas A&M University Round Rock School of Nursing assistant dean, said many nurses are aging out of the profession.

Similarly, Moreno said many electricians, plumbers and HVAC workers are getting close to retirement.

Programs at schools such as TSTC, ACC and TXST are aiming to address these gaps with expansions. While TAMU at Round Rock is not working on any expansions, the university has programs aiming to keep medicine and nursing workers in Texas.

Quote of note

“We have engineering that we’re slating to bring in a couple of years. ... We’re really working with the industry that is around to help prepare degree programs that will help with the workforce pipeline," said Julie Lessiter, Texas State Round Rock vice president.

What's next

With the ongoing expansions, officials hope these campuses will address current and future workforce needs.

The construction of Esperanza Hall at TXST’s Round Rock campus—to house the school’s nursing program—is expected to begin in November.

In June, ACC approved a construction manager to oversee the applied technology expansion to renovate one building and build a new one.

TSTC is still determining logistics for its new building, which is expected to open in a few years.

“We know advanced manufacturing is here,” TSTC Provost Kelly Coke said. “It’s the future, but it’s also here to stay.”