Through 2030, about 70 percent of jobs will require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree, Collin College President Neil Matkin said.
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 an update do its new long-range master plan, which identifies several local workforce needs, including jobs in manufacturing and nursing.
The college is also planning to expand programs that could help Plano’s growing manufacturing, information technology and engineering industries, said Brenda Kihl, executive vice president for Collin College.
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 make up less than one-third of Collin College’s academics, but one of the college’s strategic priorities is to expand these 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 market demand
Collin College collaborates with economic development corporations, high schools and employers throughout the county and region to identify high-demand jobs that require specialized training. Workforce advisory committees are also assigned to each of the college’s workforce or technical training programs. These consist of representatives from various companies who share trends and advise the college as to how it should focus future efforts.
“We need to prepare for future trends because we can see certain industries moving in different directions that requires certain skills,” Kihl said. “[The business economy] has exponentially increased over the last two or three years—we’ve all seen that.”
Collin College has also recognized IT as one of the most in-demand fields in the county. Plano has a highly educated population—more than half of the population has at least a bachelor’s degree—nearly twice the U.S. average, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Finance and business services jobs are also in high demand in Plano as well as insurance services and advanced manufacturing and health care, Kihl said.
In addition, the college is looking to expand construction-focused training, such as project management; heating, ventilation and air conditioning; and welding. Having the ability to respond to these needs helps economic development corporations attract business, Kihl said.
“There are new industries we haven’t seen here before—we’re [also] seeing a strong gaming industry, new technologies and huge expansions in the health care system that we need to respond to,” she said.
Getting the word out
Jenny Lee Zeilfelder, economic development manager for Plano Economic Development Corp., said PEDC works with Collin College and Workforce Solutions for North Central Texas to respond to workforce needs within the city.
One way the PEDC wants to further dialogue about what companies are looking for in employees is by hosting its first open house event in the fall. Although the event is still in the planning phase, Zeilfelder said the PEDC may partner with Workforce Solutions of North Central Texas, Collin College and the Collin Small Business Development Center to inform employers about what these organizations have to offer.
Founded in 1993, Workforce Solutions provides training and other educational programs for businesses in a 14-county area in order to help the region remain competitive.
“We want to at least let companies be aware this organization does exist to help train its employees as an incentive to keep the workforce local,” Zeilfelder said.
Matkin said Collin College also meets regularly with companies, which helps shape the workforce programs Collin College offers as well as the structure of those programs.
Matkin said a challenge to offering more workforce training programs is the college needs more facilities. The college is working to expand by building a new main campus in Wylie and centers in Celina and Farmersville, all of which are expected to open in 2020.
“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.”
Plano ISD workforce training
Plano ISD provides workforce training for students through its Career and Technical Education program. The program, which has existed for the past few decades as the district’s vocational education program, offers secondary school students real-world relevancy in 14 different career clusters.
Graduating students 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, CTE Director David Hitt said.
“[The] CTE blends knowledge and skills to produce more well-rounded graduates ready for the opportunities of the world,” he said.
The program has evolved from a small niche of woodshop and agricultural science courses to include hands-on curricula in technology and health sciences. PISD integrates this type of learning at the middle, high and senior high levels as well as for engineering and robotics.
“It has become a lot more skills and knowledge-based and those are the two key words. CTE combines academics [with] hands-on learning and skill [development],” Hitt said. “That’s what unique about CTE because it’s a great combination and a good balance.”