Dallas Mayor Says His City is not a Viable Destination for High Tech Companies

Mike Rawlings
AP Photo/Roger Steinman)

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said that because of the failure of education, his city is not a viable destination for many companies, including the high tech industry. His remarks came during a conference of five North Texas mayors who participated in a workforce skills “gap” panel that focused on the role of local city and business leaders in public education.

“It’s our job,” declared Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings at the High Impact Luncheon held at the Fort Worth Convention Center last week. “It may not be part of our defined jurisdiction, but it is our job,” he added. “You’ve got to have someone from the outside screaming  the house is on fire, I think, for people to get it on the inside.”

Rawlings based his concerns on a May 2015 JPMorgan Chase & Co. skills-gap report that inspired the education event. It identified middle-skills shortages in North Texas. A middle-skill job requires a high school diploma and some training or college but not a four-year university degree.

In time when College and Career Readiness (CCR) drives public education, career and technical education (CTE) is promoted as  the transferable skills that lead to college and career success. Rawlings fretted that Dallas, as the biggest technology employer in Texas, lost out to neighboring suburb Plano when Toyota relocated from California because of poor skills-gap perception, the Dallas Morning News reported.

The Dallas Independent School District (ISD) ranks as the second largest district in the state and 14th in the nation. Breitbart Texas reported on the recent resignation of Dallas ISD Superintendent Mike Miles, who left after three controversial years when district reform attempts that only netted mixed results.

Rawlings insisted that once word got out of a shortage of qualified middle-skilled set workers in Dallas, major companies, mainly technology, would not view the city as a viable destination. Delivering the necessary workforce of tomorrow remains an imperative.

Gallup’s Education Practice Director of Research Tim Hodges calls CTE the “new normal in education.” He asserts, despite critics’ pushback that technical oriented coursework “may divert college-bound students’ attention” away from university prep-minded pursuits, students with a CTE concentration “are nearly 15 percentage points more likely to graduate high school than the national average.”

In 2014, US Education Department chief Arne Duncan blogged about President Obama’s “heavy emphasis on career and technical education and training that prepares young people for work.”

Duncan called CTE hands-on, engaging, rigorous, and relevant, connecting students with the high-demand science, technology, engineering and math fields. The idea behind CTE is not new. Since 1948, New York’s Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) has offered career and technical trade alternatives for the non-college bound student.

The jobs in the Chase report cater to the healthcare and information technology (IT) sectors. It lists 960,000 unfilled middle-skilled Dallas-Fort Worth jobs, representing 29 percent of the area’s workforce. Based on current hiring trends, the report projects 42,000 more middle-skill jobs through 2018. However, it finds few qualified workers to fill these positions.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. pumps serious dollars into their middle-skills New Skills at Work training — a $250 million five-year global initiative “to help markets build a demand-driven workforce development system” for youth and adults.

Locally, Tarrant County received $2 million for workforce training this year. Dallas got $5 million, of which $500,000 went to support a workforce program grant and another for $221,750 for software programming certification, according to the Dallas Morning News. Dallas got $5 million last year, too.

Mayors are also part of the college and career readiness machine through the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM), a non-partisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 founded during the Great Depression in a congressional federal assistance program for cities.

USCM houses education under the Workforce Development Council (WDC). They fund competitive grants through the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL), a USED program that promotes college and career readiness in K-12 urban area classrooms to “ensure the economic vitality of those urban areas.”

In 2014, former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro addressed the Washington, D.C. held winter conference on his signature, city-sales-tax-funded Pre-K 4 SA. Rawlings hosted last summer’s meeting in Dallas. Nearly 300 mayors attended the 2015 winter meeting.

The other mayors on the panel came from Fort Worth, Irving, Arlington, and North Richland Hills. They discussed public education as the “primary resource for preparing people for the workforce” beginning with pre-K, according to the Dallas Business Journal, which also said that “education, training, and mentors from early childhood through adulthood would produce better-prepared employees.”

Like Rawlings, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price called for action. “The last 30 years, parents and the businesses have kind of abdicated education to the schools,” she said. “It’s time that we were there.”

Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.


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