We see these signs all around our city. All around our country, in fact.
Demographers warned us for the last 20 years or so that it was coming. A mass exodus of workers known as Baby Boomers. Over a fairly short period of time.
Many Boomers were trained in skilled trades, and a notable number from that generation made things, as did the generations before them. They were the generation that experienced massive modernization in manufacturing environments and feared losing their jobs to offshore competition and automation.
These fears led to a huge number of people from succeeding generations seeking higher education. It was the “Information Age.” Their parents wanted their children to “do better.” And that changed everything.
Suddenly, vocational education was no longer in vogue. It became normal to ask high school graduates where they were headed to college, rather than what their life’s plans were. We relied on China, Korea and Taiwan to “make things.” And jobs poured overseas for two basic reasons: cheap labor and cheap material.
But America makes things. Abilene, Texas makes things. And we use innovation, creative spirit and tenacity to get it done. We work well collaboratively. We inspire each other.
But at last look, Abilene was experiencing an unemployment rate near 3.2 percent. That’s ridiculously low. Today, there are more than 1,400 available jobs in our city. And we lack the folks with the necessary skills and credentials to fill them all.
For the last two years in Abilene, Whitney and I have looked forward to our oldest son, Elliott, finally relocating here and join his sister, a Junior at Abilene Christian University (A CU) and his brother, a Junior at Jim Ned High School. That has finally happened. Elliott arrived just two short weeks ago, with undergraduate coursework in sports science and a personal and group trainer certification from the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM).
He wants to engage with others. He wants to share what he knows. He wants to be a long-term contributor in our great city.
He’s on the street, trying to meet others who want to make Abilene the best it can be. He wants to establish his career here. If you see him around, please say hello. He’s a great guy. It’s just a matter of time before he lands in an opportunity to help keep him here.
Back to my original point – Abilene is full of great, capable workers. It’s also full of tremendous opportunity.
Let’s work together to connect those who seek opportunity with the opportunities that go unfilled. Let’s bolster our economy by making things and by encouraging those who seek opportunity to learn how to do so. And let’s continue to build our great city’s image as the place in Texas that gets things done, where the economy grows because we all pull on the same end of the rope.
Workforce is a challenge, we know that. We don’t have enough people with the skills required to fill them. But we can find a way. That’s what Abilene does.