On Thursday, Tyler Junior College hosted a summit of the region’s education and workforce partners.
Leaders from area school districts, business/industry and TJC gathered to discuss how they can collaborate to create a more robust workforce and stronger communities by increasing students’ access to the training and education they need.
“This summer, we invited business, civic and school leaders to a leadership institute to have conversations about ‘What can we do collectively that we can’t do alone?’ or ‘What can we do better collectively than we are doing alone?’” said Jeanie Oxler, TJC director of school partnerships. “This was a follow-up to that institute. Today’s focus was ‘How do we (k-12 schools and TJC) work together with business and industry partners to develop a pipeline of qualified employees to better serve the East Texas Region?’”
LaToya Young, executive director of the Tyler Area Business Education Council, moderated a panel of five leaders from the business and industry sector: Terrence Dixon, Brookshire Grocery Company; Beth Maddox, Christus Trinity Mother Frances Health System; Jeff Harris, Delek Refining; Jim Nipp, The Genesis Group; and Robert Rivers, Trane Technologies.
“This seems like a small group, but their facilities are like campuses, with many areas and sometimes hundreds of employees,” she said. “So, it’s not just specific to one industry: These places have employment needs in a lot of diverse areas including IT, human resources, accounting, etc.”
Young continued, “It was a great opportunity to have all of the superintendents and the TJC personnel all in one place, so business leaders can have conversations about the employee skills that they’re needing, some of the gaps that they’re seeing, about things they are projecting in the future, and how they want to help create that skilled workforce that they need presently and what they can do to get engaged — not only here in Tyler but with the service area that TJC has and beyond.”
“Our event today was about dual credit and how we support our dual credit partners — but we’ve had a lot of interest of late from our school districts in expanding technical dual credit,” said Dr. Deana Sheppard, TJC provost and vice president for academic and student affairs. “So, these employers had an opportunity to get in front of superintendents, principals and other administrators and let them know what they’re really looking for in employees.”
The business leaders seemed encouraged and energized by the exchange.
Beth Maddox, vice president of human resources for the Christus Trinity Mother Frances Northeast Texas Region said, “We already partner with many school districts, but it’s about ensuring that we’re partnering with all that we can. We have clinics, urgent care centers and emergency centers all throughout our rural communities, so we need to make sure that they know what options are available beyond nursing. Nursing typically comes to mind, but there are so many other pathways, including radiology, lab, materials management, supply chain, office management and those frontline representatives at our clinics.”
Terrence Dixon, senior vice president for human resources administration and communications for Brookshire Grocery Company, said “I think it’s a needed relationship between academia and business, for us to work together to provide career opportunities for the young people who are coming through the institutions, who will go into the workforce.
“In my organization, we need talented people — so, we welcome any help that we can get as far as steering individuals our way.”
Oxler shared information on TJC programs that align with area business and industry needs and explained ways TJC and community partners are helping students pay for college, including through dual credit reduced tuition options and the TJC Promise scholarship program, where students to earn up to two years of tuition and fees at TJC by meeting certain criteria during their high school years.
She also shared additional supports TJC has developed for students, including the online “Dual Credit Orientation,” career planning, tutoring, college success coaching and many other resources.
Sheppard added, “We heard employers say that they will pay for employees to further their education. They want them to go back and get more training. There are some very exciting opportunities out there.”
Dr. Juan E. Mejia, TJC president and CEO, said, “We remain committed to workforce preparation and educational attainment through authentic partnership with stellar school districts and business and industry partners. Our communities merit economic development, social mobility and regional prosperity, and together we will set the state and national model.”