Update – April 9, 2012

on April 9, 2012 in Weekly Update

Good Afternoon San Jacinto College Community –

I hope you enjoyed the long weekend!  I don’t know about you, but these long holiday weekends are packed full of activities.  This one was no different with Good Friday and Easter activities and family gatherings, plus I tried to make a substantial dent in my reading pile.

You may have noticed that there have been a variety of articles in local and national publications about jobs and the outlook for 2012 and beyond.  While there has been less-than-positive news in the last few years on the job front, it appears that jobs in Houston are coming back. 

Based on large-scale workforce initiatives and economic development events, Houston is considered one of the top 10 cities in the nation poised for greatness in 2012.  In 2011, Houston ranked second for corporate relocations around the nation.  We’re the first metropolitan region to have regained jobs we lost during the recession that began in 2006.  The last report from the Greater Houston Partnership indicated that 102.7 percent of jobs were recovered from the start of the recession—that actually means we have grown our jobs by 2.7 percent.

Just last year, the Houston region added more with 75,800 jobs, and for 2012 the Greater Houston Partnership forecasts 84,600 additional jobs for the area.  However, one interesting aspect of this recovery is that recovery has been uneven.  Some industries have rebounded well, while others have not.  But overall, the Houston region is in good stead in overall job recovery since 2006. 

The fastest growing fields for 2012 are health care, manufacturing, professional, administrative support services, and business services, which includes scientific and technical services.  Each of these areas will add over 10,000 new jobs, with manufacturing estimated to add 11,700 new jobs. And construction jobs number just under 10,000, with an estimate of 9,800 new jobs.

While the overall jobs outlook is very promising for Houston, the areas of concern continue to be the impending retirements of baby boomers and the skills gap.. The retirement of baby boomers is something that we have heard about for several years, but it stalled out due to the recession.  Three main industries in our region—petrochemical, maritime, and health care—continue to report that 50 to 60 percent of the industry workforce is age 50 or older, which indicates a tremendous future workforce need.  In addition, the petrochemical industry is experiencing incredible growth with new investments in our area due to low natural gas prices and new technologies.

In addition, many industries, including manufacturing, petrochemical, maritime, and health care, face a skills gap in which current job openings are going unfilled because employers can’t find workers with the appropriate skills levels.  There is a significant skills gap between what jobs require and the training of the existing workforce.  We hear about this mismatch between worker preparation and business needs from companies in our own region, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis suggests that the skills gap may account for one-quarter to one-third of today’s unemployment rate.  We also know that skills gaps have an impact throughout all levels of an organization.  For example, we hear about personnel who have strong technical skills but need leadership training in order to move into management positions or those who need advanced technical training to move from one level of expertise to another.  This issue has been called the up-skilling of incumbent workers, and it is difficult to address because in order to allow time for workers to obtain the up-skill training, production on a short-term basis may suffer.   

Over the last two weeks, San Jacinto College has hosted several activities focused on addressing these workforce needs.  Here are highlights of three events:

  1. On March 28th, Chairman Tom Pauken of the Texas Workforce Commission presented two grant checks for training of incumbent workers at PolyOne and several maritime companies.  Both of these grants were developed to address the pipeline and skills gap issues affecting these companies.  The College currently manages over $20 million in workforce training grants in a variety of industries, including petrochemical, health services, maritime, cyber security, aerospace, and commercial truck driving.
  2. A college-wide Career & Job Expo was held on April 2nd with 64 employers recruiting for jobs requiring a multitude of skills.  As I talked with these employers, I found they were from distribution centers, hospitals, food services, engineering firms, nonprofits, and tourism.  One employer told me that if he found “ten good applicants today, he would hire all ten.”
  3. On April 3rd, the 6th Annual International Business, Logistics, and Maritime Conference was held with students, employers, and other educational partners participating in discussions around workforce needs and future trends.  Captain Tom Tray, Vice President and General Manager of Bay-Houston Towing Company, highlighted jobs that are needed in the maritime industry and how those connect to programs at San Jacinto College.  Of the eight job growth areas highlighted, seven were in fields where we have significant time and resources invested or have plans to invest in future activities.  I have plenty of notes from the morning on items to consider in the near future including that eighth job area.

All three of these events illustrate the college’s connection and collaboration with employers and our ability to respond to their needs.  These considerations are important as we continue to build, revise, or sunset programs.  Our work related to addressing the workforce needs will be part of my testimony at the Senate Subcommittee on Business and Commerce this week in Austin.

Also, on April 2nd, the Lyceum Committee at San Jacinto College South hosted Captain Mark Kelly.  His presentation was inspirational and a story of hope, passion, and courage; but it also highlighted workforce needs related to the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) areas.  My welcoming comments were directed at our work in encouraging STEM growth, especially through our connections with NASA and Johnson Space Center.

Over the past 10 years, growth in STEM careers was three times higher than growth of non-STEM careers.  Professionals in these areas are less likely to experience joblessness and they earn 26 percent more than their non-STEM counterparts.  In 2010, there were 7.6 million STEM professionals, representing one out of eighteen workers in the United States.  Employers say that the STEM related jobs are the hardest to fill, and an example that we hear many times is around engineers. The number of engineers graduating annually from institutions in the United States has stagnated at approximately 120,000.  By contrast, between 850,000 and 1 million engineers a year now graduate from universities in India and China.

We know that many of the STEM jobs require technical skills that are included in our certificates and associate degrees.  Many of the careers that we prepare students to enter such as the health sciences, manufacturing technology, and automotive and diesel technology require credentials that we offer enabling students to achieve their career goals and position themselves for advancement.  The engineers whom I referenced above require bachelor’s degrees or higher, and we at San Jacinto College are preparing students for transfer in these career paths as well.  We need to be sure our students are aware of the opportunities available to them in STEM careers and what we do to prepare them to be successful at the transfer institution they chose.  I encourage all of us to promote the value of obtaining the associate degree.  Students who complete the associate degree are more successful than those students who transfer before degree completion.  Completing the associate degree also allows more courses to transfer to four-year institutions.

While San Jacinto College has much activity in the STEM areas, this is definitely an area we need to target with a concerted effort for expansion in the future, especially given our location along the ship channel and the growing workforce needs right here in our district.  Again, this is an area where we are doing work, but how do we expand what we are doing?  As we work more closely with our Independent School Districts, we need to promote the STEM career pathways and encourage growth and commitment in the pipeline.  Many middle and high school students do not understand these careers nor do they realize the importance of the framework they are learning that will impact their future educational endeavors.  At San Jacinto College, our STEM focus and outreach will continue to grow as we address these pipeline issues.  

Before I close this update, I want to notify you that the Board of Trustees approved a tuition and fee increase which will be effective in the fall.  The attached document highlights the increase and our positioning at 12-semester credit hours (before and after the increase) compared to all 50 community colleges in the State and those in the Gulf Coast region.  After the increase, the tuition and fee costs (without course specific incidental fees) for a student to obtain an associate degree at San Jacinto College are approximately $3,140 for an in-district student and $5,600 for an out-of-district student.  This educational investment for in-district students is approximately 20 percent of the cost of the first two years at a four-year university and 36 percent for out-of-district students.  In addition, the Board approved an increase in the three-peat charge which is the surcharge that students repeating a class three or more times would pay.  This charge occurs because the State does not provide funding for three-peat courses.  Finally, the Board increased the exemption for dual credit and early college high school students from 50 percent to 55 percent in order to help offset the tuition and fee increase.  The revenue generated as a result of these changes will be allocated to continue the priorities and annual goals established in the college’s strategic plan and specifically our student success agenda.  It will also address instructional and student support staffing, technology and infrastructure improvements, increases in property and casualty insurance costs, and increases in facility operating costs due to new construction.

Have a good week and remember to take a few extra moments this week to encourage a student.  I sought out one of our students yesterday (he was a waiter at the restaurant where my family had lunch), and he told me that he was planning to drop out this next semester.  This is one semester shy of graduation, and the issue is financial.  We discussed scholarship options, and I encouraged him to go to our Foundation and Financial Aid offices.  I don’t know if I helped him change his mind, but I will be following up with him this week.  These are the stories that break my heart, and I know each of you hear about more of them than I do.  So please reach out and help guide a student!


P.S.  Don’t forget about the employee picnic on Saturday, April 14th from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can RSVP here and remember to include your immediate family members. If your children haven’t seen a college campus, this would be a great opportunity for them to explore some of the happenings.

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