Will Texas have the skilled, educated workforce necessary to keep the state strategically competitive in the changing global economy? That’s the question many companies are asking now as they adapt to tough economic times and adjust to pressures from a global marketplace.
Texans have been put to the test before, and Susan Combs is making sure young Texans are prepared now to meet tomorrow’s challenges head on, armed with the education, skills and training they need for an ever changing job market. Susan is a champion for students and wants them to have what they need to succeed. She worked hard to ensure basic school supplies are included in the Sales Tax Holiday weekend and therefore was placed on the Texas PTA Legislative Honor Roll in March of 2010 for expanding the program’s parameters to include these important supplies for students. She wants to ensure students are prepared to succeed and have the opportunity to achieve their goals and dreams.
An educated workforce is vital for the state’s continued economic growth. However, the rising costs of a higher education and the current economic conditions facing many Texans are making it harder for families to save and pay for college and preventing many students from reaching their educational goals.
In September 2008 Susan unveiled the Texas Tuition Promise Fund, a prepaid college tuition program that allows families to plan ahead and protects them from the rising costs of colleges and universities. Under this flexible plan, families can purchase tuition units that represent a fixed amount of tuition or fees. There are three types of tuition units that will fit any family’s need, and the units can be used at all four- or two-year public colleges and universities in Texas, at private Texas colleges or at out-of-state institutions.
Texas families are taking advantage of this landmark initiative. Almost 13,000 children enrolled in the Texas Tuition Promise Fund during its first annual enrollment period, and more than $239 million in prepaid college tuition contracts were sold from Sept. 1, 2008, to Feb. 28, 2009.
The Comptroller’s Office also offers two educational savings plans – the Lone Star 529 Plan and the Texas College Savings Plan. Both allow Texas residents to establish a savings plan for their children’s education and benefit from tax-free earnings.
Susan also launched the Every Chance Every Texan website in 2008 as an educational and career planning tool for students and families. The site is a wealth of information on careers, jobs and Texas colleges and universities.
House Bill 3 created the Financial Allocation Study for Texas (FAST). Under this new legislation, Susan will identify and rank districts and campuses that use resource allocation practices that contribute to high academic achievement and cost-effective operations. By developing a ranking system that relates schools to each other and analyzing relative efficiencies, this study will help identify practices that result in efficient attainment of academic achievement levels resulting in continued academic progress for students and, ultimately, college and work force readiness. Stay tuned for the latest results of this project.
Susan’s Every Chance Fund, a new $25 million statewide program to help Texans get the technical training they need for careers in fast-growing, “high-demand” occupations, is already stimulating economic growth. In January, Lone Star College-CyFair received a $245,000 grant that has bolstered Lone Star College’s multi-disciplinary engineering program. More than 100 manufacturing companies within Lone Star College’s region employ mechatronics technicians. Many of these jobs have starting salaries of $40,000, and some employees in this field earn six-figure incomes as they gain experience and hone their qualifications. Learn more about the success of other major incentives provided by the state in the report to be released in early November.
However, not all Texas students want to pursue a college education. In 2008 Susan released Texas Works, a look at the growing shortage of skilled workers and the educational and training options needed to meet the changing job market in Texas. Susan knows that with the state’s large, diverse economy, many young Texans may need to look at a variety of educational options to reach their career goals.
Texas Works pointed out that according to the U.S. Department of Education, about 80 percent of the fastest-growing jobs added in the future will not require a bachelor’s degree, although they will require some post secondary education.
According to the Texas Workforce Commission’s projections, Texas will have an average of nearly 44,000 job openings annually through 2016 for occupations requiring an associate degree or post secondary vocational award. With an increased need for skilled workers and qualified employees, workforce training either at community colleges or technical schools can meet this demand.
Texas is a state of growth – growth in population, growth and jobs and growth in economic opportunity. It’s a state where Susan knows big ideas and big dreams can meet the challenges of a changing business climate. Susan is working to ensure our workforce is educated and trained to meet these challenges and Texas can continue to grow and remain competitive in a global market.
Susan continues to fight against childhood obesity in Texas. Building upon the March 2007 report, new research shows healthy eating habits can improve attendance, energy levels, classroom participation, school behavior, test scores and academic success. Now more than ever, young Texans must be educated on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle to be prepared for tomorrow’s challenges. Look for new developments in the updated report to be released in early September.