Five North Texas mayors gathered to discuss workforce skills gaps in our region on Thursday, all saying that it’s the first question they get when talking to companies interested in locating or expanding here.
“It’s a no brainer when you’re talking to business people or anybody in the community or elected officials…you can’t grow or even maintain the growth you have if you don’t have a strong workforce,” said Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price. “The chamber will tell you, the first thing [businesses] will ask you is: ‘Tell us about your about your education opportunities and tell us about your workforce and what skills you have.’
Price and the other mayors cited the JPMorgan Chase & Co. New Skills at Work report released in May. The report says that the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area added 136,900 jobs in 2014, more than any other metro area. But the report also notes that many job seekers in the region do not have the necessary skills, training or education to fill an estimated 42,000 new middle-skill job openings that will be created through 2018.
The Skills Gap Report for Dallas-Fort Worth shows that about one-third of the middle-skilled jobs that local employers posted and were trying to fill from July 2013 to July 2014 were concentrated in the health care and information sectors.
Price addressed this workforce skills gap, along with Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams, Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne and North Richland Hills Mayor Oscar Trevino.
Many of the jobs companies are looking to fill may not require a college degree.
“A lot of [students] need to get a technical job or maybe they’ll go to college later,” said Price. “The business community tells us there’s a significant gap in what the kids are coming out learning and what they really need.”
Price said the business community needs to become involved at a local and state level.
“I would encourage you as business leaders to get in the schools and get engaged and get engaged at the state level and let them know what we need,” she said.
The luncheon event held at the Fort Worth Convention Center was put on by the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce with Southwest Office Systems as the presenting sponsor.
The event also presented the Chamber’s Legacy Award to Bob Simpson in recognition of his lasting impact on the community, particularly for his restoration of several historic office buildings in downtown Fort Worth.
Simpson, the former chairman and founder of XTO Energy Inc. and now chairman of MorningStar Partners, has led the restoration of several downtown buildings.
At MorningStar, Simpson has set up offices for the company in the old Fort Worth Star-Telegram building, restoring the 1920 building designed by Sanguinet & Staats.
Simpson bought and fully restored the W.T. Waggoner building in the 1990s and then continued to restore other downtown buildings. He has restored 886,000 square feet of historic buildings – almost 9 percent of all downtown office space.
A sampling of Simpson’s downtown preservation achievements include:
— W. T. Waggoner Building (XTO Energy) at 810 Houston St.
— Bob R. Simpson Building (formerly the Baker Building) and its First National Bank historic clock at 110 W. Houston St.
— The Transport Life Building at 714 Main St.
— The Petroleum Building at 210 W. Sixth St.
— The Montgomery Ward/Tindall Storage building at 810 Grove St.– The Bennie G. Kniffen Building (formerly Binyon-O’Keefe Warehouse) at 210 E. 7th St.
— The MorningStar Oil & Gas Building (formerly the Star-Telegram) at 400 W. 7th St.
Simpson received the Cornerstone Award from the Texas Society of Architects in 2008, and has been honored by the National Historic Trust for his contributions to historic preservation.
“What I would say about old buildings and old treasures of the past is that, in looking to the future, I’ve always believed we should first retrace the footprints of the past and that’s what I’ve tried to do,” he said.
For information on the job skills report: www.jpmorganchase.com/skillsatwork