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Current Article

​Contact: Cesar Canizales

214-378-1859; ccanizales@dcccd.edu

For immediate release — Aug. 20, 2015

(DALLAS) — It’s no secret that the Dallas-Fort Worth area economy has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years, often at a pace faster than the national economy. However, it’s also clear that a skills gap exists — a shortage of skilled workers who can fill the high-paying jobs that are being created by the area’s booming economy.

That skills gap has prompted the Dallas County Community College District, led by DCCCD’s chancellor, Dr. Joe May, to join with industry and the state to seek ways to educate workers and put them on a path to higher incomes and, for many, a way out of poverty, which has risen even as the economy has grown. Grants from the Texas Workforce Commission to North Lake and El Centro colleges, in partnership with Shermco Industries and the Western Association of Food Chains, respectively, are good examples that help bridge the skills gap and provide training for people who need those jobs.

Mark Hays, vice chancellor of workforce and economic development at DCCCD, said that half a million people in North Texas who live below the poverty level could benefit from getting those jobs, but they lack the proper training and education.

Hays said DCCCD is focused on getting those people into its training programs, especially individuals who might feel overwhelmed by the idea of going to college. “Many times, people may feel intimidated because they don’t know about the admissions process,” he said. “We have to be there to assure them that getting into college is not a difficult process.”

Additionally, DCCCD has to nurture the students and encourage them to succeed, particularly those who never have attended college, said Hays.

According to a recent study by JPMorgan Chase, approximately 960,000 middle-skills positions exist in the Dallas-Fort Worth region that require some training beyond a high school diploma, but not a bachelor’s degree. The majority of those jobs are in the health care, information technology, finance, aerospace and manufacturing sectors. The report stated that those industries will create 42,000 middle-skills job openings yearly through 2018.

The Chase report pointed out that middle-skills jobs in the DFW area pay an average of $24.47 an hour, or 35 percent higher than the average living wage in North Texas. Getting the proper training to fill those vacancies could be the key to paving a way for people to escape poverty and enter the middle class.

Hays said DCCCD plays a critical role in preparing workers for those jobs. “Community colleges have to be focused on business and industry. They are our primary customers. We have to be able to turn out students who can work in those professions, work in those businesses, work in those industries and be competent in doing it,” Hays said. “We need to turn out students who can start to work on day one and not have to go through additional training programs on their technical skills.”

However, acquiring those skills could seem expensive to some people who have limited financial means. Attending a year of school at one of DCCCD’s colleges, which offer tuition rates that are among the lowest in the state, costs almost $1,700 — not counting books, transportation, rent, food and other expenses.

Hays said helping students with the financial aspect of their education is critical, particularly given the demographics of the student body. The average age of DCCCD students is 27, which means many of them have jobs, either part time or full time, so the challenge for the district is figuring out how to engage industry to help with the training process and also make those programs more accessible and affordable.

“We have to look for ways to make those programs affordable for all of our students,” said Hays. “The certificate programs are very cost-effective, but if you don’t have the money, it can be very discouraging and can seem out of reach. We have to bridge that gap to show that it is not out of reach and that resources are available to pay for it.”

As a result, DCCCD has partnered with the Texas Workforce Commission and private industry to help students overcome some of those financial obstacles. Two of the most recent partnerships include:

  • Shermco Industries — An Irving company that provides electrical infrastructure services, Shermco Industries recently partnered with TWC, which provided a $151,000 grant to provide skills training at North Lake College, which is also in Irving. This TWC Skills Development Fund grant will provide customized training to new and existing Shermco employees. The workers will learn skills and receive hands-on training that includes electrical blueprint reading, battery testing and electrical motor repair. Other workers will train to use software applications such as Microsoft Excel and Adobe Acrobat, and they also will learn technical writing and accounting. Workers who complete the training will earn an average of $27.86 per hour, according to TWC.

  • Western Association of Food Chains — El Centro College, located in downtown Dallas, joined forces with the Western Association of Food Chains to provide management training to workers in that industry, offering 16-week and eight-week programs that lead to Retail Management Certificates. That program also is offered as an accelerated, five-week program during the summer. The White House has praised this program because it will provide the education and training that workers need to advance their careers and earn higher wages. El Centro is one of only three Texas colleges that offer the certificate. Students who complete the program have the potential to work their way up in an organization and dramatically increase their earnings. Additionally, students have the option to apply the academic credits they earned in the program toward an associate or bachelor’s degree.

For more information, contact Mark Hays by phone at 214-378-1821 or by email at mhays@dcccd.edu.

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