With thriving agricultural and manufacturing industries, Amarillo faces an enviable situation: plenty of jobs and a low cost of living. The city at the heart of the Texas Panhandle supplies meat and dairy products to consumers across the country, and Texas Tech University recently opened the second veterinary medicine school in the state, to much fanfare.
Still, businesses in the town of about 200,000 struggle to find enough workers. Amarillo’s leaders grapple with the challenges of attracting and retaining college-educated workers while developing career paths for skilled labor.
Amarillo College developed a nationally acclaimed program, the No Excuses Poverty Initiative, that provides students a food pantry, a mentoring program, a career center and social services. By focusing on student needs outside the classroom, the initiative has broken down barriers for nontraditional students, leading to better pass rates and improved retention and transfer rates. While this initiative has been successful, employers are still struggling to find workers who will embrace Amarillo as their forever home.
During Dallas Federal Reserve President Lorie Logan’s visit, Amarillo leaders shared the efforts of businesses and community groups to fill the skilled trade gap. By connecting more high school graduates to trade schools and apprenticeships, and even hosting career-signing days for graduates, community leaders are transforming the perception of trade programs with a goal of Amarillo’s job market reflecting that of the rest of the nation.