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Partnerships Are The Secret That Strengthen Education & Workforce In Southwest Dallas

Discover how the symbiotic relationship between colleges and universities in Southwest Dallas and Northern Ellis counties and the business community gives the region a competitive edge.

By Teree Caruthers on August 19, 2016

Cedar Hill, TX
Cedar Hill / Courtesy of the University of North Texas

Responding to growth in the Best Southwest Partnership region’s logistics, manufacturing and health-care sectors, colleges and universities have forged powerful partnerships with the business community to help strengthen the existing workforce and ensure a steady flow of highly skilled workers to these high-growth areas.

The University of North Texas at Dallas is tackling workforce development at the most basic level – teacher training.

“We produce about 78 to 80 teachers a year,” says UNT Dallas President Bob Mong. “We graduate about 40 teachers per semester and that’s great, but there remains a severe teacher shortage in the Dallas area. There is even a worse teacher shortage when it comes to bilingual teachers. All of our bilingual teachers immediately get jobs upon graduation. There is really room for us to grow dramatically in our teacher preparation.”

Under Mong’s leadership, the university recently hired a new dean for the School of Education from the University of Chicago who ran the Impact Chicago program, which trains urban teachers. Mong says the fit is perfect since most of the university’s service area is urban, and many of the educators graduating from UNT Dallas will likely end up teaching in the urban school districts in Southwest Dallas.

“Our student population is more than 80 percent Hispanic and African-American. We are producing graduates that are highly skilled, who want to work and live near home, and are trained in programs that are relevant to what the workplace and communities want and need. Our goal is to improve the social mobility of our students – provide easy access to get them here, encourage them to stay, mentor them in their discipline and graduate them with marketable skills. That’s what our market wants.”

The university also offers degree programs in business, information technology, hospitality management and public health, one of the fastest-growing industries in the region.

“We have been approached by virtually every hospital company in North Texas,” Mong says. “Because of the rapidly expanding need for bilingual workers in health care, they want more of our graduates.”

Mong says more than 100 veterans are enrolled at UNT Dallas, and many of them are sought after by major corporations  including the Dallas VA Medical Center located only a short distance from campus. In 2015, the school opened the Veterans Success Center, which offers support and networking opportunities to help fast track the educational opportunities for veterans and help maximize their military experience in forging marketable careers in the civilian world.

Working Smarter

Propelled by a population boom and an economic growth spurt, the city of Red Oak partnered with the Red Oak ISD to build a Texas State Technical College North Texas campus to train the growing number of employees needed to fill new jobs – specifically the more than 100 jobs added to the workforce by Triumph Aeronautics. The company opened an 880,000-square-foot facility in the city’s industrial park in 2014. The TSTC North Texas campus also offers programs in applied engineering, industrial maintenance, welding, manufacturing, logistics and applied health, among others.

The Midlothian Higher Education Center at Navarro College partners with Tarleton State University and Texas A&M University-Commerce to offer students courses that can be applied toward degrees and certifications at any of the three institutions.

In Cedar Hill, the city’s economic development corporation works hand-in-hand with Cedar Valley College to identify relocating and expanding companies in need of training, recruitment and placement services. The partnership earned the EDC the state’s coveted Workforce Excellence Award. Cedar Valley College also partners with businesses – most recently Central State Manufacturing Inc., Premier LogiTech LLC and Romark Texas LLC manufacturing and logistics firms – to provide job training through the skills-development grants funded by the Texas Workforce Commission.

Patricia Webb, executive dean for workforce and continuing education for Mountain View College, says the TWC grants are especially beneficial for those companies that might have a low – or no – budget for training. Webb says the grants have allowed Mountain View to partner with Airbus Helicopters to train more than 300 engineers and employees on new engineering systems and FAA rules and regulations.

“The beauty of the grants, for us, is that it allows us to highlight – and even add to – our curriculum,” Webb says. “For example, after our FAA training program, we added those courses to our catalog. We also added a new course called Human Interaction with Airplanes. We’re teaching logistics, and we’re certifying the employees to become certified logistics technicians and certified logistics associates, so we added those programs to our curriculum. Now, we’re a logistic certification center.

“We’re trying to make sure the people who live in this community can get jobs in this community, and that means keeping people trained. It’s important that we grow the talent in the southern sector and make our contribution to the state.”

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