As we read about major business relocations and expansions, or speculate about which city a tech titan might select as a new home, the conversations typically cover the same variables: incentive packages, accessibility/transit, affordability, amenities, and a healthy pipeline of highly skilled, highly trained workers. In the case of the latter, it’s easy to consider only the executives, engineers, designers, etc. a company directly hires to support its business. But, as these businesses drive the population growth in North Texas, community leaders must also be cognizant of the resultant demand for other skilled labor that supports our growing economy.
- With an unemployment rate sitting steadily below 5 percent, businesses are having a hard time finding qualified, skilled workers to fill their needs. This gap is more acute in certain industries than in others.
- Recent studies by trade organizations in Texas show the average tradespeople, such as master plumbers, are 55 years old, and predict a severe shortage over the next decade as these people retire.
In anticipation of this need, Collin College is partnering with local industries and the broader educational community to connect businesses with the skilled labor they need. In order to bridge the gap, the college is expanding its certification and training opportunities in specific areas where there is direct demand for workforce in North Texas: finance, logistics, healthcare, IT/digital technologies, automobile repairs, and construction trades.
To accomplish this mission, Collin College is embarking on design and construction of a Collin Technical Center (CTC) campus in Allen. The 360,000-square-foot CTC will house a wide variety of programs ranging from biomedical equipment repair, welding, nursing labs and carpentry to drone technology. The programs are a response to the workforce demands in the region and provide a low-cost solution for residents to acquire immediately applicable career education. Future flexibility is vital in the conception and design of the state-of-the-art building: giving the college the ability to change, so it can adapt as it trains North Texas’ future workforce on emerging technologies, is paramount.
The new campus is a microcosm of society and is designed to serve people of various ages, skill levels, interests and backgrounds. To create a pipeline of students and encourage career readiness, Collin College is partnering with four leading school districts—Allen, McKinney, Frisco, and Plano—to offer high school students dual credit opportunities, earning both high school and college credit through completion of the same class. High school students will spend part of their day at the Collin Technical Center campus and will have the opportunity to enroll in technical programs to earn certifications.
Beyond acting as a bridge between people seeking employment and the local businesses in Collin County, the college will also partner with businesses to meet the continuing education needs of their existing workforce. The campus conference center and meeting rooms will likewise provide a venue to host community events.
The tall cranes dotting the North Texas skyline tell a tale of an economy still going strong. If we are to sustain this growth and truly thrive as a business community, partnerships like the Collin Technical Center will be key for our future.
Vandana Nayak is Regional Education Practice Leader at Perkins+Will.