Workforce-Training Needs Draw Attention at Capitol Hearing

The Texas Senate’s Business and Commerce Committee took extensive testimony on April 10 concerning the unmet need for training for highly skilled work in the Texas economy. Several business-sector witnesses testified that many high-skill jobs are going unfilled, and they said the problem is only going to grow as large numbers of highly skilled workers reach retirement age.

Texas AFT, in testimony submitted by legislative counsel Patty Quinzi, said both the public schools and the labor movement can play a big part in solving this problem, imparting skills and connecting students with well-paying jobs.

For instance:

–While conducting our own site visits with successful Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, Texas AFT has learned about effective strategies such as co-teaching that CTE instructors use to engage students’ interest. (Co-teaching involves collaboration between teachers in core academic subjects and CTE teachers to engage students through relevant applications of academic concepts.) The Texas Education Agency should encourage districts to collect and report on such valuable teaching strategies and interventions used by current CTE teachers who have first-hand knowledge of how to engage students and help them achieve postsecondary success.

–The TEA best-practices clearinghouse should include examples of local partnerships between school districts, labor councils, and businesses that have joined forces to fund students’ training, including apprenticeships and even scholarships. Recognizing the tremendous advantage of having a ready workforce at hand, local businesses have invested in individual students and provided two-year scholarships to community colleges and four-year colleges as well.

–The high-demand occupations list that is developed by the Texas Workforce Commission, in consultation with the Texas Workforce Investment Council, could be strengthened by requiring consultation with Texas labor organizations. Texas labor unions, through regional AFL-CIO central labor councils, have partnered with school districts and businesses and have been involved in successful career and technology programs throughout the state.  Because of their regional scope, central labor councils are keenly aware of area labor needs and how to address them.

–Any development of mathematics and science courses for high-demand occupations could be improved by including the input of teachers and local labor organizations in developing coursework.

–By seeking the counsel of front-line educators and the network of CTE experts in central labor councils, those concerned with economic development can better ensure that students have academic choices that are attractive, attainable, rigorous, and aligned with regional economic-development needs.