The South Texas economy is growing, our population is increasing and businesses are opening.
It is a good time to be in South Texas. Driven by strong energy and industrial sectors, we must prepare for long-term economic development and an educated workforce to meet the needs of our booming economy. I am committed to increasing economic and educational opportunities in South Texas. Earlier this month, I filed House Bill 533 to create a pilot program to expand access to career and technical education partnerships in rural areas.
The Rural Workforce Investment Pilot Program is meant to develop partnerships among school districts, junior colleges, technical institutions, and local businesses to educate a skilled workforce. There is a shortage of skilled workers in our state, but if we act accordingly, there is opportunity to invest in the future of our workforce and bring good-paying jobs to South Texas.Of the 15 school districts within House District 43, the average graduation rate is approximately 80 percent. While these and other statistics are sobering, they also suggest that programs such as the Rural Workforce Investment Pilot Program would be a good investment for our community. After all, the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that those who do not complete high school have a lifetime earning potential that is 77 percent of high school graduates; furthermore, the Department of Education estimates that 80 percent of all new jobs require some form of post-secondary education.
While everyone may not want to attend a four-year college, a two-year degree has become increasingly necessary. Employers tell me they cannot find enough qualified applicants for skilled jobs. These technical jobs provide a higher average salary and increased opportunities for students. This is precisely why I have advocated for such policies to expand access to a technical education for high school students. Combined with the development we have seen around the Eagle Ford Shale, more career and technical education opportunities will increase the average salary and quality of life in our district. Jobs are important, but we need to make sure our state invests strategically in our youth to provide the skilled workforce Texas needs.
Ofelia Garcia Hunter
January 24, 2013