WORKING on WORKFORCE

February 14, 2020Marissa Thompson, Director of Talent and Development

CTE Signing Day
Abilene has a 77,300 plus civilians within our labor force. When we look at our regional labor shed, our West Central Texas work force number jumps to 270,000 civilians strong.

Texas sits around a 3.4 percent unemployment rate while Abilene teeters around a 2.2 percent unemployment rate. With over 1,000 job openings in Abilene and the Big Country region alone, this raises the question, who is going to fill all of our available jobs?

Abilene has a wealth of talent cycling through our vast array of higher education institutions. Approximately 11,300 students are attending higher education locally at either one of the three private universities, at one of the two-year colleges, at the technical college, or at the Texas Tech Health Science Center School of Pharmacy or Nursing.  Abilene is also home to two independent school districts, educating over 21,000 K-12 students at Abilene Independent School District (AISD) or Wylie Independent School District (WISD). When you include the 41 other independent school districts within our region, we increase our student population to around 44,773 students.

Exiting high school students make-up our largest up-and-coming labor force that will help in filling the local workforce void.

Local high school students are given the opportunity to be a part of Career and Technical Education (CTE) classes providing students technical skills and training in fields such as airframe technology, industrial systems, welding, healthcare, IT, culinary arts, etc. CTE classes provide students access to explore different career opportunities. Ten local high school students will be recognized for their hard work and dedication at the AISD One Building on Thursday, Feb. 20 from 5:30-6:30 pm as they commit to continue their education at Cisco College or Texas State Technical College (TSTC) upon their high school graduation within their chosen CTE field. All are invited to attend this celebration.

WE-Connect
Educators are key to our student’s knowledge base of what jobs are available to them after high school, college or technical college. But how do these educators know what is available to their students? Great question!

WE-Connect, Externship Program. WE-Connect is a unique professional development opportunity allowing educators from around our West Central Texas region to work side-by-side with industry peers during a three-day paid summer externship experience at participating businesses. Businesses deliver a work-based learning opportunity that fits their schedule and equips educators with information and skills to help meet local workforce needs. Educators gain insight into how classroom learning translates to the workplace, and in turn, enhance classroom curriculum with real-world connections. Stipends are received along with professional development continuing education units (CEU) for educators.

Educating our students about all the local job opportunities in our community can’t fall only to the educators. Businesses, parents and community leaders must also be a part of that conversation, and WE-Connect serves as the introduction of the conversation. Last year 24 businesses participated in WE-Connect supplying 50 externship opportunities to local and regional teachers.

If you are interested in partnering with the WE-Connect program, click here for more details.

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