The 2015 school year marked record growth in Tyler, and the city's public schools and junior college responded with construction projects and new programs to ensure students receive a high-quality education and are prepared to compete in an increasingly technical workforce.
The Tyler Independent School District opened the new Three Lakes Middle School in August 2015 in response to growth in the city's southern section.
TISD also updated two other middle schools with renovations that include keyless entry for safety and security; additional classroom space, which allows students to work in small groups as opposed to lecture-style seating; and upgraded technology capabilities, according to Dawn Parnell, executive director of communications and public relations for the district.
"The schools also feature improved classrooms with technology capabilities – much more 21st-century. The classrooms all have Wi-Fi and the ability to utilize technical equipment, such as whiteboards," Parnell says. "Having the bandwidth to allow students to use personal devices as well as devices provided by the school district is also a major addition."
Parnell says in the same way residential growth led to school construction projects, new business investments led the district to build a new career technology center to ensure the pipeline of skilled workers continues to flow.
"The school district issued a bond project that passed in May of 2013, and after it passed, we began construction on the new career technology center. It is the first time that we've had a center that is completely dedicated to career technology," Parnell says. "The career technology center is a place where high school students can go and learn on-site skills and training. Students can study occupational therapy or learn architectural skills, plus there's a full cosmetology center and television production studio. Students can actually graduate being certified in these areas and come out of high school making a good wage."
Parnell says the district worked with the community to help determine which career pathways it would offer through the center. It also partnered with area businesses to offer students internships.
"Basically, we looked at what skills were needed and which industries were seeing growth and looking for future employees. We're growing and training our own people and own future employees," she says.
Tyler Junior College has also experienced a growth spurt in response to workforce development needs. The college, which grew its enrollment to more than 12,000 by 2012, recently opened the new $50 million Robert M. Rogers Nursing and Health Sciences Center and introduced new academic programs in nursing, dental hygiene and health sciences.
"These are jobs that are high-paying and in-demand in our region, and we believe these new programs will be a significant recruiting tool to bring students from Dallas and Houston and from other areas throughout the state to come here and study for a career in health care," says Fred Peters, TJC director of public affairs and grant development. "Health care is the No. 1 industry in our area, contributing more than $3.11 billion a year to the economy. More than 25,000 people in this community work in health-related fields, so Tyler has become a health-care destination. With our new Robert M. Rogers Nursing and Health Sciences Center, we're thinking Tyler will become a health-care training destination, as well."
TJC also worked with the Tyler Area Economic Development Council and the City of Tyler to build an Energy Center to house its growing programs in power-plant technology, welding, and heating and air conditioning.
"Tyler Junior College is the community’s college. TJC is fortunate to have the support of the community and to work with area business and industry to determine the skills and workforce needs for the future," Peters says. "We look forward to continued engagement in the work of the Tyler Area Partnership 4 Education and public and private sectors as East Texas grows."