Lubbock officials met to discuss future of rural Texas workforce: Here's what they said

The Education for a Strong Workforce event had Lubbock leaders discuss plans to improve the Texas workforce, as seen on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022.
The Education for a Strong Workforce event had Lubbock leaders discuss plans to improve the Texas workforce, as seen on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022.

Lubbock leaders, from businesses to elected officials, gathered this month to discuss the importance of workforce education across growing rural communities.

Jobs in the surrounding area have exceeded 9,800 added in the past five years, and are expected to nearly double by 2027, with nearly 25% of those jobs in healthcare and education. This expected boom prompted officials to meet for a "Education for a Strong Workforce" event Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022.

In attendance were State Rep. Dustin Burrows, incoming Representative Carl Tepper, The CH Foundation Trustee and Texas Tech Regent Mark Griffin, the president of South Plains College and other notable people in the surrounding area.

Griffin kicked off the event, stating that people needed to continue investing and supporting Lubbock students. His foundation supports initiatives for "innovative, energetic leadership that are designed for long-term viability."

One of the ways the foundation is doing that is by working with South Plains College on a new technical career center and downtown center, which he said would be "critical to ensuring our future workforce has access."

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Dr. Robin Satterwhite, South Plains College president, promoted the centers during the meeting.

"As the workforce needs of businesses are rapidly changing, so must education," Satterwhite said. "We are committed to ensuring our students have access to critical workforce education programs that will prepare them for employment. Together with our partners, we are working to support programs like these that are essential to ensure the future success and economic growth of this region and the entire state of Texas."

One in 70 people in the Lubbock workforce are employed by United Supermarkets, or one of its subsidiaries, according to a news release. With so much of the area's workforce linked to his company, Sidney Hopper, United president, also voiced his excitement for the future.

"Our community continues to be a shining example of growth and success in West Texas," Hopper said. "We are working to invest in the ongoing success of this community by supporting our future leaders through education, with a focus on career and technical education."

Becky Calahan, Director of Philanthropy Advocates, closed the event by discussing how important it would be for the upcoming workforce to be highly-skilled. She said that by 2030, more than 60% of Texas jobs would require a postsecondary credential, which only 48% have currently.

"While our economy continues to boom, relying on talent and businesses to move to Texas is not a sustainable formula," Calahan said. "We must work to cultivate and retain a highly-skilled workforce right here in Texas. Fortunately, communities like Lubbock are leading the way in investing in education programs with the help of organizations like the Lubbock Economic Development Alliance (LEDA), the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce, United Supermarkets and The CH Foundation. We need more programs that prioritize opportunities for students to be prepared for high-skilled, family-sustaining jobs and setting an example for the region and the state."

This article originally appeared on Lubbock Avalanche-Journal: Here's what Lubbock officials has to say on future of rural workforce