Help wanted

September 7, 2021Doug Peters, President & CEO of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce

As the primary voice of business in the Big Country, the most important task for ensuring the work of our organization is in-line with the needs of your business is to hear what challenges you’re facing.

From surveys, to phone calls, to personal visits, to our events – our conversations with our members are essential to the Chamber’s operations.

One of our teams’ favorite questions to ask when we’re engaging with our partners is, “what’s keeping you up at night?” And lately, that answer seems to be the same for everyone – workforce.

Drive around our community and you’ll see many “Help Wanted” or “Hiring Now” signs scattered throughout town which is not unique to Abilene. For years futurists have been warning us that as the Baby Boomer generation begins to exit the workforce, Generation X, Millennials and Gen Z will need to fill that skills gap. Add in a pandemic accelerated that the exit of many Boomers, the challenge has developed now to more of a crisis.

Your Chamber has been working to ensure a pipeline of talent exists for your business to capitalize on for years now. Thanks to the work of former Chamber Chair, Seaton Higginbotham (Arrow Ford) and Charlie Black (Wagstaff, LLP) workforce has been at the forefront of our conversations for years.

And out of their volunteer-driven work and leadership, the Chamber has successfully developed programs and partnerships to help you on your workforce journey. Take the work of the Chamber’s Industrial Foundation, the free job board abileneworks.com and the Chamber’s Abilene Young Professionals.

However, we’re not satisfied. We’re constantly seeking research, opportunities and programs that will benefit the business community.

And, one partnership that we’re more than thrilled to be helping with involves a back story.

A few months ago, a longtime Chamber volunteer and partner by the name of Shea Hall tagged our organization in a post about this little event called an “Economic Reality Fair.” The comment section of this post exploded, other organizations were tagged, and the support for this program to occur in our community was evident.

After doing some research, I learned that this “Reality Fair” was essentially a unique budgeting exercise where kids are paired up together and they have to work to decide how they spend their monthly budget. They compromise, they have heated discussions, they learn how much a dependent can cost, how you do pay for trash service, and they put into action what will be a real-life scenario for some sooner rather than later.

Sold on the concept, I did what I always do, I forwarded it to our team to see what their thoughts were.

The very next day, we had a check-in with one of our members, Elizabeth Gray, from Abilene Teachers Federal Credit Union (ATFCU). We asked what she was working on and Elizabeth told us about the Economic Reality Fair she was preparing to conduct at Wylie High School. It was fate.

We had meetings and discussed if/how we could be of any assistance, and together it was decided the Chamber’s Young Professional program would leverage their 570 strong members to seek volunteers for the program.

The first fair of the school year is quickly approaching on Oct. 6, and we need your help. If you are interested in helping ATFCU and the Chamber’s Young Professional program by volunteering, fill out this form here.

As we work together with community partners to ensure our workforce is ready for success, we are grateful for ATFCU for leading the charge on this effort and letting us help where needed.



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