As far back as the 1990's and well into the early 2000's, a mass exodus of manufacturing jobs in the U.S. were going oversees for seemingly cheaper labor. Over time, however, this movement of labor proved to be more costly than many of these companies realized. This cheap labor came at the price of several critical factors such as quality control, innovation and speed to market.
As a result, many manufacturers are re-investing in the "Made in USA" label, bringing back American jobs as part of a new era in the business called, "advanced manufacturing." As recent as twenty years ago, traditional manufacturing jobs required very simple processes that required little or no specialized training. Due to an explosion of technological advances, the use of innovative technology to improve products or processes has prompted this next generation of manufacturing.
At the heart of this new era is a highly skilled workforce; one that is completely driven by technology and capable of designing, operating and repairing some of the world's most advanced equipment. In the past ten years, Abilene has benefited from this innovation as it has helped attract new industries and enabled existing manufacturers to expand their capabilities. Doing so has created significant employment opportunities here in the key city that have been left untapped.
However, on Wednesday, January 18th, the Development Corporation of Abilene approved funding for an initiative with Communities in Schools (CIS) of the Big Country to change that fact. CIS has a mission to surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life. The organization accomplishes this mission by providing "student success coaches" to improve their attendance, academics and life choices.
Through a school-based Student Success Coach, CIS strategically aligns and delivers integrated student support designed to help them improve school performance. The organization is credited with helping many local students overcome challenges both in and out of the classroom to achieve a high school diploma. Realizing the opportunity to replicate this same model of success, CIS will employ a full-time success coach in two-year technical programs aimed at filling in-demand jobs of Abilene's advanced manufacturing industries.
Terry Johnson the Executive Director for CIS stated, "A large majority of the seniors that our Student Success Coaches are working with at Abilene High and Cooper have no clear plan for life after graduation. Partnering with DCOA gives us an opportunity to transition these students directly into technical training programs that will equip them to go to work for local businesses. We want to push as many high school students through the workforce development pipeline for local jobs as possible."
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. The businesses that hire these graduates will be able to resolve a major barrier to growth, enabling their Abilene operations to not only continue, but facilitate their ability to expand. This labor shortage has been identified as a key component in positioning Abilene for long term growth and prosperity for residents and businesses in DCOA strategic plan that was published in early 2015.