As the energy industry continues to boom in the Tyler area, Tyler Junior College is widening the pipeline of talent flowing into the field. In January 2015, TJC opened its Energy Center, a three-story, 15,300-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility where students are trained to hold highly skilled jobs in energy and integrated technologies. Students gain hands-on experience before earning an associate's degree or certificate in areas such as power plant technology, HVAC and commercial refrigeration.
“As a community college, our role and mission centers around the community and its needs. We're always scanning to see what jobs are in demand so we can be responsive to those needs. We work with the Chamber of Commerce and the Tyler Economic Development Council and the business community to develop the workforce and to help bring more well-paying jobs to Tyler,” says Dr. Mike Metke, President of Tyler Junior College. “Quality of life starts with a good job. We want our residents to have well-paying jobs, and most of those jobs require more than a high school diploma, so that's where we come in.”
Teaching Skills to Meet Demand
The Energy Center is just one illustration of how the region's higher education institutions help keep Tyler competitive through workforce development.
“The institutions of higher education have a profound impact on workforce development efforts in our area. Together, TJC, University of Texas-Tyler and Texas College conferred approximately 4,000 postsecondary credentials in 2014, providing area residents with the skills and education levels needed to fill local jobs,” says Christi Khalaf, Executive Director of the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce Business Education Council.
Khalaf points to the growing demand for health-care workers as an example. Health care is now a $3 billion industry, employing some 25,000 residents. To meet the industry's needs, TJC opened the new 130,000-square-foot Robert M. Rogers Nursing and Health Sciences Center, which has three times the classroom and lab space of the former nursing facility. The college hopes the investment will in turn increase the number of nursing and health-care professional graduates by 50 percent.
The University of Texas-Tyler expanded its renowned pharmacy program with the completion of the Ben and Maytee Fisch College of Pharmacy. The program focuses on team-based learning and offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees.
Business and Education Partnerships
The region's business community has also shown its commitment to workforce development, partnering with schools to give students opportunities to develop the critical skills needed to compete on a global stage. Luminant power company, for example, partnered with TJC to establish the Luminant Academy, which provides technical and leadership training for employees. Luminant also established the Power Track scholarship program for high school seniors that includes tuition toward an associate degree and an internship with the company.
“In order to attract new business and industry to the Tyler area, a highly skilled and readily available workforce is crucial. Potential employers must be assured that they will be able to hire and retain highly qualified individuals to fill open positions,” Khalaf says. “In addition, skilled workers earn higher wages, which in turn generates more tax revenues for the city and allows for improved infrastructure and quality of life.”
For the chamber's part, the Business Education Council works with businesses, area schools and higher education institutions to begin preparing students for those high-tech and STEM-related jobs even earlier.
“One recent example is the chamber’s support for Tyler Independent School District's new Career and Technology Center. This center will enable hundreds of students to receive direct workforce training while in high school and will create a more direct path into high-demand industries or into post-secondary education,” Khalaf says.