“If Paris, Texas wants to keep our current employers and recruit new businesses, we must increase our education. In other words, we need more local people with certificates, two-year degrees, and four-year degrees,” states Michael Paris, Executive Director, Paris Economic Development Corporation (PEDC).
Tomorrow’s jobs require certifications! Factories are becoming more technologically complex, and workers must have skills to be effective employees. Not all jobs require a traditional four-year degree. While it has become commonplace to encourage students to seek bachelor’s degrees, there are many jobs that require a two-year associate’s degree or a one-year certificate. A high school student can begin working on a certificate through a local career technical education (CTE) program. Students who have graduated high school can still enter one-year or two-year programs like these at Paris Junior College (PJC). Either way, obtaining the one-year certificate or two-year degree makes the student much more attractive for employment.
There are three examples of increased skills in Paris, Texas: Kimberly-Clark, Campbell Soup, and Turner Industries.
Kimberly-Clark was approved for a tax abatement over ten years for a $150 million expansion. This investment brings in new equipment to modernize our local plant. This expansion requires enhanced skills. Also, when an employee retires, Kimberly-Clark needs new employees with modern skills. One example is how PJC’s Electromechanical program provides skillsets that Kimberly-Clark highly desires.
Campbell Soup has made expansions within the last few years as well, including a Ready-to-Eat line and a Single-Serve Juice line. These lines are automated and require specific skills in multitasking. Campbell’s jobs utilize the National Career Readiness Certificate through PJC, selecting qualified candidates for these enhanced jobs. Also, CTE centers at the local high school offer skills relevant to the Manufacturing Cluster. Either way, these skills increase the ability to get a job and improve wages.
Turner Industries recently held a Job Fair to fill new positions within the company. Most positions at Turner are requiring a one-year certificate or two-year program, such as welding or fabrication which are readily available at PJC or the local high schools.
Just as important, new businesses that consider moving to Paris, Texas need skilled workers, including workers with one-year and two-year certificates. If Paris, Texas is to remain competitive for new employers, more young people must obtain competitive skills. Increasing the number of workers with certifications helps Paris to compete head to head with other communities for these new jobs.
“The state understands our gap for skills. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Texas Workforce Commission are pushing four goals to narrow the education gap by implementing the state’s 60x30TX program. The 60X30TX program is asking all communities in Texas, including Paris, to: 1) certify or degree 60% of people ages 25 to 34; 2) certify or degree 550,000 students by the year 2030; 3) develop certificate and degree programs based on marketable skills; and 4) reduce student debt for these graduates,” states Michael Paris.
The goals of the 60x30TX program will help provide the tools necessary to keep Texas competitive in the future, but Paris has its challenges to meet the 60% desired by the 60x30TX program. Out of Lamar County, only 25% of ages 25 and older have a certificate or degree. 60x30TX pushes us to move from 25% to 60% having these skills. “We need to implement local plans to achieve these goals,” states Michael Paris. This pushes us to make a certificate or degree more accessible to more students, giving them skills that are more marketable. Relying on this program will not be enough, however. Local collaboration between parents, students, school districts, local businesses, PJC, and the PEDC need to be developed to help reach these goals.
“Statistically, one-third or 33 out of 100 students of a graduating high school class moves on to a post-high school certificate or degree. We should move towards two-thirds or 66 out of 100 high school students obtaining these credentials.
Will we make ourselves unique in skill development to keep and recruit tomorrow’s jobs?” asks Michael Paris. “No one is stopping us.”
To learn more about the state’s goals, go to 60x30TX.com.