About 70 percent of jobs that will be available between now and 2030 will require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree, Collin College President Neil Matkin told the Frisco Chamber of Commerce during a presentation in June.
Collin College sees this statistic as both an opportunity and a necessity to fill that workforce need locally through more programs, Matkin said.
The Collin College board of trustees approved in June its master plan, which identifies several local workforce needs, including jobs in manufacturing and nursing. The college is also planning to expand workforce programs that could help Frisco’s growing hospitality and sports entertainment industries, said Jennifer Blalock, Collin College’s vice president for workforce and economic development. Those programs are expected to open in 2017, she said.
Workforce training programs generally take one to two years to complete, can cost less than four-year degree programs and often result in certifications rather than degrees.
These programs currently make up less than one-third of Collin College’s academics, but one of the college’s strategic priorities is to expand workforce training to meet the needs of the local market demand.
“As the county grows and continues to grow, there’s an increase in demand,” Matkin said. “For us, we feel very strongly that we want to make sure to provide what the economy needs.”
Meeting the market demand
Stefanie Wagoner, Frisco Economic Development Corp. director of business retention and expansion, said the FEDC works closely with Collin College and Workforce Solutions for North Central Texas to respond to workforce needs within the city.
One way the FEDC listens to what companies are looking for in the local workforce is by hosting a group called Frisco HR. This group is comprised of human resource representatives who discuss the latest challenges in their companies and the kind of training their employees need. Wagoner said Collin College and other educators attend these meetings to hear what local companies are saying.
Matkin said Collin College also meets regularly with companies. These meetings could help shape the workforce programs Collin College offers as well as the structure of those programs, he said.
Some of the fields in which the college would like to have more workforce training programs include health care, cybersecurity, welding, logistics and energy fields, among others. Matkin said a challenge to offering more workforce training programs is that the college needs more facilities.
“At this point in time, we would love to get into welding, HVAC and electrical,” he said. “But today, in terms of facility use, where would we put them? We don’t have a place to put them.”
The college is working to expand its footprint by building a new main campus in Wylie and two centers in Celina and Farmersville, all of which are expected to open in 2020.
In the college’s master plan, health care was identified as the most in-demand field in Frisco. Some of the top in-need positions for this field include registered nurses, nursing assistants, medical secretaries and licensed practical and vocational nurses, all of which require less than a bachelor’s degree.
Collin College already offers workforce programs in health sciences, but Matkin said he would like to expand those options to someday offer a baccalaureate degree program in nursing. Collin College is currently not allowed by the state to offer a four-year degree program, so Matkin has been appealing to local legislators to allow the college to do that.
Collin College has also recognized IT as one of the most in-demand fields in Frisco. Frisco has a highly educated population—more than half of the population has at least a bachelor’s degree—and many in the workforce work in IT fields, Wagoner said. A challenge for employees in IT fields is that the jobs are constantly advancing, she said.
“Once you go through qualifications, even if you were to get some type of degree in a technology-related field, in two or three years your skill set may be outdated,” Wagoner said.
Collin College’s workforce training programs include IT fields such as computer networking and cybersecurity. Blalock said it is important to continually update these programs so IT employees can stay relevant in their fields.
“When you look at the life cycle of higher education, it’s ongoing and continuous,” she said. “People never stop learning, which is a beautiful and wonderful thing. But when we think of workforce and technical education, we have to understand that that’s an ongoing continuum as well. It’s about people getting those skills and that readiness so that they can contribute in a proactive and productive way to our local economy.”
Frisco ISD workforce training
Frisco ISD has also tapped into the efforts to provide workforce training for students through its Career and Technical Education Center.
The center, which opened in 2008, offers 23 different certifications and partners with Collin College to have its courses transfer for college credit.
“We are introducing our students to the world of careers, whatever that might be,” CTEC Principal Dianna Manuel said.
Students who receive certifications from the CTEC could potentially work in the field after high school and gain real-world experience while pursuing a college degree, giving them an edge when they look for jobs after college, Manuel said.
“There’s probably not a lot out there in the business and industry in Frisco that we aren’t already covering with curriculum in one of our [CTEC] pathways just because they really do incorporate everything that you might need to know to work in that industry,” she said.