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Regional Talent Pipelines: Collaborating with Industry to Build Opportunities in Texas

Abstract: Over the past three decades, the share of middle-skill jobs has been shrinking in the U.S. economy. These are jobs that require workers to perform repetitive and procedural tasks, such as those performed by assembly line workers at a manufacturing company or typists at an accounting office. This form of job polarization has forced millions of American workers to make a choice: either get more education and workforce training to develop the skills and build the knowledge required for new middle- and high-skill occupations, settle for a lower-wage job in a low-skill service or manual labor occupation, or drop out of the labor force. Across the U.S., regional workforce development systems are responding to this pressing issue by building career pathways that create advancement opportunities for lower-skilled workers and help job seekers maximize their value in the changing labor market.

To assess how Texas communities are addressing this challenge, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and Austin-based nonprofit Center for Public Policy Priorities reviewed national best practices to provide a guiding framework for analysis and then, in partnership with the Texas Association of Workforce Boards, surveyed the 28 regional workforce boards in Texas. The workforce boards were selected for the survey because their mission places them at the center of much of the activity in their regional workforce system. The purpose of the survey was to identify the most innovative and robust efforts to align workforce development activities across each region in the state, and all 28 workforce boards responded to the survey.

This report concludes with a set of recommendations on how some of Texas’ state-level entities can help guide and support world-class career pathways to middle-skill, middle-wage jobs and beyond. The recommendations are intended as a resource to complement Governor Greg Abbott’s Tri-Agency Workforce Initiative, led by the Commissioners of the Texas Education Agency, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and Texas Workforce Commission.

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