Waco’s economic future hinges on post-high school education, training

By Hermann Pereira

I have spent the past 15 years in public education, and I never really realized how much our economic future hinges upon post-high school enrollment and completion rates. But when you break it down you realize that how well we prepare our students today directly impacts the economics of our community. 

We must focus on getting students to and through post-secondary education and into our local workforce. A recent data set that I received from an education-focused organization named Commit shows the unemployment and two-year institution enrollment for the past 20 years. It is amazing to see the rates run parallel up until 2019 when those two lines invert. Many factors have caused this, but what we know is that the pandemic will only accentuate these trends. 

This data is not meant to scare anyone but to show that this is an issue we need to embrace. We, as a community, must find new and innovative ways to partner with our higher education institutions. Getting students to and through higher education will lead us to more robust workforce pipelines in our community. 

At the state level there is legislation that is attempting to support these efforts. SB2111 and HB 2030 are companion bills that are focused on creating regional talent pipelines. This will give incentives to local partnerships and institutions of higher education that would support students to and through higher education and into the workforce. HB 2030 has passed the house, but we are waiting for SB 2111 to receive a hearing. 

Waco Foundation and Prosper Waco have embarked on a journey to complete a landscape analysis of college access and success in McLennan County. This quantitative and qualitative data analysis will provide a picture of the current state of the local support system for college access and success. Our goals are to:

  • Identify strengths, challenges, and areas for strategic improvement of the local support   system for college access and success;
  • Identify which service areas are strong and where there are gaps; and
  • Bring together community stakeholders to collaboratively address systemic issues.

Prosper Waco is committed to the success of all students in McLennan County. If you have any questions or want to discuss education in our community please reach out to me at [email protected].

Hermann Pereira is chief program officer for Prosper Waco and leads the nonprofit’s efforts in education and workforce development.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

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2 Comments

  1. Alfred Solano on May 26, 2021 at 10:37 pm

    Excellent!

  2. Mary Gerecke on May 29, 2021 at 12:42 am

    I think that Career Fairs sponsored by TSTC & MCC should be publicized & schools emphasize & provide for visits. I organized such Fairs for medical jobs and careers for 9th & 10th grades years ago, with both TSTC & MCC participating. I asked Presenters to emphasize maintaining grades, a high school diploma, & employment opportunities, and length of study, and to bring items or videos of their specialty. I observed that this information and interest was effective at 9th grade especially. I overheard remarks like : “I didn’t know about those jobs, sounds cool.” “That job looks cool” “I bet I could do that” So many students have NO experience nor knowledge of the variety of employment & jobs. Just exposure to jobs and their ability to access some training in Waco can help supply goals. I accompanied my Nephews to a career fair at TSTC, and I chose 3 careers I would like, & we were all intrigued by the variety. That Fair was also demonstrations and “hands-on” explanations of career. Instead of focusing on tests, some time and organization should be devoted to concrete goals and career information. The college fairs at Jr & Sr. years are not productive and pretty dull unless the student knows the career and knows 2 or 3 possible colleges he plans to attend. School Counselors do not provide adequate information on careers.

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