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Understanding America’s & Abilene’s Labor Shortage

October 31, 2022Abilene Mayor Anthony Williams

Take a drive around town or have a conversation with a business and you’ll find the inevitable. Almost everyone is hiring or facing some type of workforce challenge.

And while it is easy to blame others or something that’s not in our control, let’s take the opposite approach and look at the glass half full as a challenge that community and economic development leaders are working to address – together – the Abilene way.

Many refer to the labor force of 2020-2021 as “The Great Resignation” where more than 47 million workers quit their jobs, many of whom were in search of an improved work-life balance and flexibility, increased compensation and a strong company culture.

But, taking a closer look at the data, “The Great Resignation” should really be described as “The Great Reshuffle” because hiring rates have outpaced quit rates since November 2020.

Leisure and hospitality, health care, social assistance, and transportation are some of the most impacted industries to name a few. But, at the same time, they have had even higher hiring rates.

Leisure and hospitality lost 833,000 workers in July 2022, but 1.1 million people were hired into the industry that same month. In fact, leisure and hospitality has maintained the highest hiring rate of all industries since November 2020 fluctuating between 7 to 9 percent. This is very high compared to the national hiring rate which has hovered recently around 4.2 percent.

This is Abilene. We’re not here to sit around and hope and pray the situation fixes itself. It’s up to all of us, collectively, working together to ensure Abilene is poised for the workforce needed for the future.

Take the partnerships between our business and education institutions.

When Hendrick Health needed more nurses to help fill the need for our medical hub, Texas Tech Health Science Center, Cisco College, Abilene Christian University, and more came together and answered the call. Texas Tech HSC graduated more nursing students than ever before with the intent to retain those workers in Abilene. This became the standard many across the state are referring to as “The Abilene Model.”

Partnerships between the Development Corporation of Abilene (DCOA), our public education institutions, and Texas State Technical College and Cisco College, have created opportunities to assist professionals in pursuing careers our Type A businesses need such as welding, industrial systems, aircraft maintenance and more through high school and beyond. Additionally, the DCOA has a full-time staff member dedicated to being a resource for our Type A businesses.

The Abilene Chamber of Commerce is approaching workforce with a number of programs all geared toward helping the business community.

Their successful Abilene Young Professionals program helps attract, retain, and engage talent for our business community while ensuring that we retain talent from our local universities with programs such as Campus Connect and InternAbi. And, I’d be remiss to mention their long-storied program, Leadership Abilene, that helps foster the next generation of leaders in our community while engaging and retaining talent.

The Chamber launched several additional programs just this year to help tell our Abilene story to outsiders such an enhanced profile on livability.com and Big Country Best Workplaces. Both tell the story of our Big Country businesses and why Abilene should be top of mind for recent graduates. Additionally, they have an Abilene-Centric job portal (abileneworks.com) that provides employers another tool in their toolbox.

They’re focused on the childcare challenge that many young professionals and Airmen are facing. And, don’t forget their commitment to Downtown which is linked back to creating a hip and urban environment for recruitment of workforce.

And this is just a tip of the iceberg.

Additional community resources such as Work Again West Texas, a program of Goodwill West Texas, and their Career Center work hand-in-hand with community partners such as Workforce Solutions of West Central Texas. Workforce is top of mind as one of the many sectors the Community Foundation of Abilene is looking to gather data and understanding in with their THRIVEABI program.

Our community is committed to approaching this challenge from every angle because when it comes down to it, jobs create greater personal and household income. When we have more good jobs, families have more money and more choices about where to live, while having an easier time saving for college and retirement.

When families have more money to spend their increased purchasing power creates more tax revenue. That means the City, towns and our county have more money for roads, parks, schools and public safety, all without the need to raise the tax rate.

When we have more of the “good stuff” we also reduce the bad stuff — like poverty, crime, and domestic abuse.

We all need to do everything we can to make Abilene the best place to live because when we work together to give people opportunity to put their talent to work – there’s no limit to what we all can achieve.

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