Across the state of Texas, there are not enough workers trained to fill middle-skill jobs. Middle-skills jobs require some education or training beyond high school, usually through industry certifications or 2-year technical degrees, but not necessarily four-year degree. With the local unemployment rate consistently hovering around 3.1% the availability of skilled workers makes it challenging to attract and retain new businesses to Abilene. By training and upskilling our local high school students we are creating an organic pipeline of our NEXT generation workforce. The training and development of these organic workers is crucial to the health of our community.
The Development Corporation of Abilene (DCOA) and the Abilene Industrial Foundation (AIF) collaborate to create a strategy for addressing local workforce needs. This strategy includes the development and execution of NEXTUniversity within Abilene Independent School District (AISD) as we all work toward building a pipeline of local talent. NEXTUniversity is a career development program that connects high school students to technical training programs that will equip them to successfully transition from high school to the workforce meeting the demands of Abilene employers.
On Tuesday, November 27th, the Development Corporation of Abilene approved funding for an initiative with Abilene Education Foundation (AEF) to further empower and develop students. The Abilene Education Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit community organization created to promote and enhance excellence in education for the students of the AISD through enrichment of its programs.
Since the 2007-2008 school year, the AEF has provided the COOL (College Offers Opportunities for Life) Program to the students of AISD. COOL places four full-time college advisors in Abilene ISD high schools primarily to assist students who are first in their families to attend college with financial aid forms, college applications, scholarships, and college tours. COOL also provides educational outreach to students of all ages. With the addition of NEXTUniversity to the AEF COOL program students can apply for Workforce Development Dollars (scholarships) with the help of a NEXTUniversity Workforce Development Coach. The Workforce Development Coach, a new full-time position, will attract, support and retain students into two-year technical training programs such as, Industrial HV/AC, Industrial Plumbing, Welding, Industrial Maintenance and Electrical Power and Controls aiming to fill in-demand jobs for Abilene’s advanced manufacturing industries.
The long-term goal of the initiative will be to build a deep and highly-skilled talent base of local talent, capable of positioning Abilene graduates for success, but the benefits don't stop there. Local businesses that hire NEXTUniversity graduates will resolve a growth barrier by facilitating their ability to expand their operations. Both of which have been identified as key components in positioning Abilene for long term growth and prosperity for residents and businesses in the DCOA strategic plan.