Best Southwest Partnership colleges and universities partner with schools, industry to give students workforce skills
As Texas works toward fulfilling the 60X30TX higher education plan — the goal established by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for 60 percent of the age 25-34 population in the state to hold a certificate or degree by 2030 — the Best Southwest Partnership region’s higher education institutions are ramping up efforts to help the state meet that goal.
“Right now, we’re about 20 points away from that. In 13 years, we’ve got a lot of ground to cover so that Texas continues to be competitive,” says Bob Mong, president of the University of North Texas in Dallas. “That’s where we come in. We have to make sure our population gets better and better educated so that corporations and institutions won’t need to import talent from other parts of the country and world.”
UNT works with local schools to introduce students to college and in-demand career paths at an earlier age. The university has positioned itself as an urban higher education institution with a diverse student body and serving many first-generation college students.
“Our number one goal is community connectedness. That means that our recruiting strategy is all about urban balance and the inner ring suburbs, which would include the Best Southwest areas,” Mong says. “We feel our growth will be as an urban university. Consequently, a lot of our programming has grown out of that strategy.”
College and Career Ready
Mountain View College, one of seven campuses that are part of the Dallas County Community College District, works with school districts in DeSoto and Duncanville to introduce students to in-demand careers in fields, such as health care, and help them earn credit toward a degree. Mountain View offers two-year degree and certificate programs in more than a dozen areas, from accounting to welding. The college also offers customized training for business and industry with clients that include Airbus, Stanley Black and Decker and Nestle Water.
“Thanks in part to Texas Workforce grants, we’ve been able to help companies like Airbus train engineers and offer services, such as FAA training and classes in Microsoft Office,” says Patricia Webb, executive dean Economic and Workforce Development for Mountain View College.
Marcus Balch, provost of the North Texas Campus of the Texas State Technical College System, says TSTC is fortunate to have several industry partners that work with the college to ensure that curriculum is on par with the skills the industry requires and that the equipment students use for training is up to date.
“They come in and we have discussions about curriculum and equipment, making sure that we have the latest and greatest. Sometimes if we don’t, there are companies that will make donations to us to help us bring things up to speed. We talk about opportunities for them to get involved, not only with the curriculum and the equipment, but also with scholarship funding or student sponsorships,” Balch says.
TSTC opened its Red Oak campus in 2014 to serve the region and has since graduated more than 100 students. Balch says one reason for the campus’ success is the partnership with Red Oak High School, which is located just steps from the TSTC campus. TSTC offers dual enrollment for students to simultaneously earn high school and college credit.
“One of the things that we have focused on over the past two or three years is really making sure that the credit [students] earn in high school will ultimately lead to a certificate or a degree,” Balch says. “In addition to the dual credit program that we offer with the local high schools, we have a full-time student recruitment team that works in the area with the counselors and teachers to promote the opportunities that we have here at TSTC.
“We know that there is a shortage of trained technicians across Texas,” Balch says. “What we attempt to do is train technicians in the shortest amount of time possible with the skills that they need to go out and get a job, not just a job, but a career in a technical field.”