Quick Start for:

Texas Works: Training and Education for All Texans

Executive Summary and Introduction

Executive Summary
and Introduction

Decades of unprecedented technological advances have remade the U.S. and world economies. Mainstay industries such as heavy manufacturing have declined while entirely new fields have created millions of jobs, permanently altering the economic landscape. And more change is on the way.

In this environment, ensuring that Texas students have the range of technical skills they need to pursue a successful career is a critical goal, both for the individual and the state as a whole. Many Texas businesses simply cannot prosper without a growing labor pool of skilled technical employees.

At present, however, most of the state’s attention is devoted to encouraging and preparing students to earn four-year degrees. But there are other paths to success, and we neglect these at our peril.

Regardless of how much we promote university education, a large number of Texas students simply will not choose to attend a four-year school. But our economy is large and diverse enough to provide them with rewarding careers and strong incomes – as long as they acquire the postsecondary training they need to succeed.

“If Texas is known to have work force talent, more companies will locate and expand in the state.”

– Monte King, Workforce Development, Shell Oil Company, Houston

Exhibit 1

Education Requirements for Texas Jobs, 2007

Texas Jobs not Requiring Bachelor’s Degree
Number of Jobs Percent
Short-term on-the-job training 3,657,193 35.65%
Moderate-term on-the-job training 2,291,220 22.33%
Long-term on-the-job training 689,753 6.72%
Work experience in a related field 678,346 6.61%
Postsecondary vocational award 497,698 4.85%
Associate degree 407,568 3.97%
Subtotal – No Bachelor’s Degree Required 8,221,778 80.15%
Texas Jobs Requiring Bachelor’s degree or Above
Number of Jobs Percent
Bachelor’s degree 1,277,197 12.45%
Master’s degree 118,477 1.15%
Degree plus work experience 418,211 4.08%
First professional degree 101,032 0.98%
Doctoral degree 121,823 1.19%
Subtotal – Bachelor’s or Above Required 2,036,740 19.85%

Total: 10,258,518 Jobs

Note: Numbers may not total due to rounding.

Source: Economic Modeling Specialists, Inc.

The U.S. Department of Education projects that about 80 percent of the fastest-growing jobs added in the future will not require a bachelor’s degree, although they will require some postsecondary education.

Exhibit 2

Education Requirements for Texas Jobs Paying Better-Than-Average Incomes, 2007*

Texas Jobs Paying Above-Average Income Not Requiring Bachelor’s Degree
Number of Jobs Median Annual Earnings Percent
Work experience in a related field 447,390 $50,718 13.09%
Moderate-term on-the-job training 243,638 $49,930 7.13%
Long-term on-the-job training 334,735 $45,092 9.80%
Short-term on-the-job training 43,607 $44,057 1.28%
Postsecondary vocational award 78,886 $46,616 2.31%
Associate degree 343,057 $53,229 10.04%
Subtotal – No Bachelor’s Degree Required 1,491,313 43.65%
Texas Jobs Paying Above-Average Income Requiring Bachelor’s Degree or Above
Number of Jobs Median Annual Earnings Percent
Bachelor’s degree 1,187,112 $64,085 34.74%
Master’s degree 102,068 $61,709 2.99%
Degree plus work experience 413,485 $87,954 12.10%
First professional degree 101,032 $120,655 2.96%
Doctoral degree 121,823 $80,766 3.57%
Subtotal – Bachelor’s Degree Required 1,925,520 56.35%

Total: 3,416,833 Jobs

*Texas’ per capita income was $37,187 in 2007. Note: Numbers may not total due to rounding.

Source: Economic Modeling Specialists, Inc.

Many high-paying and rapidly growing professions are open to persons with technical training. In 2007, more than 80 percent of all Texas jobs did not require a bachelor’s degree (Exhibit 1). More importantly, neither did nearly 44 percent of jobs paying an above-average income for the state (Exhibit 2). That included more than 343,000 jobs requiring an associate degree and paying average annual earnings of $53,229, as well as 79,000 jobs requiring technical certificates and average incomes of $46,616 (Exhibits 3 and 4).

And the U.S. Department of Education estimates that about 80 percent of the fastest-growing job categories in the near future will require some postsecondary training, but not a bachelor’s degree.1

“It’s getting tougher to find people for technical skills-related positions. The demand is greater than the supply of the people who possess these skills.”

– Carol Wilson, Senior Human Resources Director, Centerpoint Energy

Exhibit 3

Associate Degree Jobs Paying More than $37,187 (Average Texas Income, 2007)

Description 2007 Jobs 2007 Median Annual Earnings
Radiation therapists 868 $88,962
Aerospace engineering and operations technicians 807 $76,606
Nuclear technicians 44 $75,525
Nuclear medicine technologists 1,345 $71,178
Computer specialists, all other 7,681 $71,053
Dental hygienists 9,592 $65,728
Fashion designers 523 $63,419
Diagnostic medical sonographers 2,624 $63,211
Registered nurses 160,491 $58,198
Industrial engineering technicians 9,298 $57,221
Fish and game wardens 505 $55,973
Electrical and electronic engineering technicians 15,813 $53,789
Mechanical engineering technicians 5,330 $52,749
Physical therapist assistants 3,971 $49,941
Electro-mechanical technicians 1,040 $49,150
Occupational therapist assistants 1,789 $48,714
Respiratory therapists 7,607 $48,485
Radiologic technologists and technicians 13,745 $48,381
Geological and petroleum technicians 4,723 $47,174
Social science research assistants 479 $46,342
Chemical technicians 5,951 $45,843
Paralegals and legal assistants 17,242 $45,677
Engineering technicians, except drafters, all other 4,805 $44,928
Funeral directors 1,475 $43,867
Cardiovascular technologists and technicians 2,838 $43,368
Forest and conservation technicians 187 $43,202
Respiratory therapy technicians 2,657 $43,139
Computer support specialists 44,807 $41,205
Forensic science technicians 1,261 $40,934
Environmental science and protection technicians, including health 3,592 $38,397
Interior designers 4,732 $38,085
Medical equipment repairers 3,218 $37,648
Biological technicians 2,017 $37,461
Total Jobs & Weighted Average Annual Earnings 343,057 $53,229

Sources: Economic Modeling Specialists, Inc. and Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.

“There is a tendency to push kids to a four-year degree and I think we have to change that view. There is nothing wrong with starting with an associate degree...we are paying many of our associate degree people more than four-year graduates.”

–Edward C. Trump, Plant Manager, Entergy, Harrison County Power Project

Exhibit 4

Technical Certificate Jobs Paying More than $37,187 (Average Texas Income, 2007)

Description 2007 Jobs 2007 Median Annual Earnings
Commercial pilots 2,410 $61,968
Electrical and electronics repairers, powerhouse, substation, and relay 1,374 55,557
Ship engineers 1,419 53,082
Avionics technicians 2,388 50,461
Electrical and electronics drafters 3,384 49,462
Aircraft mechanics and service technicians 16,737 48,901
Appraisers and assessors of real estate 5,069 48,547
Drafters, all other 1,133 47,902
Mechanical drafters 7,297 46,592
Electrical and electronics repairers, commercial and industrial equipment 6,269 46,197
Healthcare practitioners and technical workers, all other 2,189 43,098
Electrical and electronics installers and repairers, transportation equipment 1,192 42,203
Court reporters 1,799 41,974
Architectural and civil drafters 9,405 41,954
Occupational health and safety technicians 1,428 40,082
Legal secretaries 14,776 40,082
Sound engineering technicians 640 37,877
Total Jobs & Weighted Average Annual Earnings 78,886 $46,616

Sources: Economic Modeling Specialists, Inc., Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts and Texas Workforce Commission.

Texas has a number of community and technical colleges that can offer our children affordable, state-of-the-art training for jobs with a future after just one or two years. As Chapter 4 of this report documents, they make important contributions to the state economy; their graduates’ incomes generate about $10.1 billion in the Texas economy each year. And they can play a vital role in ensuring that Texas continues to prosper in challenging economic times.

But to maximize the effectiveness of our community and technical colleges, the state must ensure that its policies help rather than hinder them.

A “One Size Fits All” Model

Many state policies are geared largely toward pushing all students into university programs (see Chapter 2). These policies may inadvertently send the signal that the four-year degree is the only path to success.

The Texas high school class that entered the ninth grade in Fall 2007, for instance, will be required to meet the new “four-by-four” standards, which require four years each of language arts, social studies, math and science. But some applied science and math courses relevant to technical courses will not count toward the four-by-four requirements.2 The new requirements may force many students to abandon career and technical education (CTE) courses.

Similarly, proposed new grade-point average (GPA) calculation standards for high schools would only include CTE courses aligned with university programs such as accounting.3 Many technical courses will not count toward the calculation of student GPAs, giving students less incentive to enroll in them.

Furthermore, the ability of our community and technical colleges to train skilled workers has been hampered by declining state funding. As Chapter 3 illustrates, state funding for community and technical colleges has not kept pace with inflation and is falling in real terms. And while CTE courses can be quite expensive to establish, often requiring state-of-the-art technology and equipment, the state does not offer funding for startup costs. In some urban areas, employers donate materials and equipment and allow students to train in their facilities, but rural institutions often lack such partners.

Such state policies are shortsighted, both from the perspective of individual students and from that of Texas as a whole, which needs a productive, skilled work force with a variety of technical skills to compete successfully.

The Skilled Worker Shortage

Dwindling enrollment in vocational training is starting to affect many Texas businesses that face shortages of skilled workers. Employers in and near the cities of Corpus Christi, Port Arthur, Beaumont and Texas City report that they cannot find enough welders. One large petrochemical company representative said that they have needed more welders than they can hire for the past two years.4

Carol Wilson, senior human resources director for Centerpoint Energy, told Comptroller staff that “it’s getting tougher to find people for technical skills-related positions. The demand is greater than the supply.”5

And the existing supply of skilled workers is aging. The Wall Street Journal recently noted that “unions, construction contractors and other businesses” are facing impending shortages of skilled workers since many of them are reaching retirement age, and there are too few young workers with the skills needed to replace them.6

The impending wave of retirements in the baby boom generation will remove many of our most experienced and skilled technical employees from the work force. This may drive up wages for a wide variety of technical occupations, and force employers to import labor from other states or other countries.7 Both are costly solutions, and may ultimately lead employers to reduce operations or relocate elsewhere.

“If we can’t get the work force we need, we’ll leave. We have to get people educated or growth will stop and people will move.”

– Tom Wade, President, Logistics and Manufacturing Association, Port Laredo

Exhibit 5

Number of Graduates from Publicly Funded Institutions, by Degree Type vs. Annual Average Job Openings, 2007

Exhibit 5.  In 2007 there were 43,715 job openings for those with Associate degrees and certificates, and only 36,442 graduates.  There were 85,065 job openings for those with Bachelor's degress and above and 104,054 graduates.

*Estimate derived by taking the total number of associate degrees and certificates and subtracting “academic” associate and certificate awards.

Sources: Texas Workforce Commission and Texas Higher Education Accountability System.

Texas’ publicly funded higher education institutions are not meeting this demand. In 2007, for example, Texas had roughly 44,000 job openings for workers with some postsecondary technical or career training, but the state’s public institutions produced just 36,442 students with the skills needed for those jobs.8

By contrast, in the same year, our public universities produced more bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral graduates than the economy could employ, awarding about 104,000 degrees while the state added just 85,000 jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree or above (Exhibit 5).9 Private Texas colleges and universities added another 26,000 graduates, for a total oversupply of about 45,000.10

It should be noted that privately funded career schools greatly supplement our supply of skilled technical workers, graduating more than 53,000 students with a diploma, certificate or some other credential in 2007.11 Even so, these data provide further evidence of the way in which Texas public policy pushes students toward the university regardless of the actual needs of the state economy, or the economic prospects graduates face.


Foregoing postsecondary training and education can mean a tremendous loss of income over a lifetime. A student who earns an associate degree, for example, will earn an average of $340,000 more over a working lifetime than someone with just a high school diploma – and nearly $600,000 more than a worker with no diploma.12

These increased earnings, moreover, can be achieved with a relatively small investment of time and money. Tuition and fees for two years at a community college in Texas, for example, cost an average of about $3,800, compared to more than $26,000 for four years at a public university.13

Yet far too many Texas high school students fail to pursue postsecondary education, despite its obvious benefits and advantages. As illustrated in Chapter 5, their reasons tend to fall into three broad categories:

  • inadequate knowledge about school programs and financial aid opportunities, and how to take advantage of them.
  • institutional and bureaucratic obstacles that make it difficult for students to obtain career and technology education.
  • financial barriers, and the inability of financial aid systems to reach those most in need.

All of these challenges are common among the students most likely to benefit from postsecondary career and technology education.

Steps Texas Should Take

This report includes several recommendations to help overcome these challenges.

  1. Make more parents and students aware of all postsecondary educational options, including career and technical education (CTE), and the availability of financial assistance.
  2. As part of this effort, use data on educational and employment outcomes to quantify the economic benefits of CTE, and publicize these results to help make current and prospective students aware of its value and promise.
  3. Ensure that state academic requirements, such as those represented by the new “four-by-four” policy and new GPA calculation standards, do not prevent or discourage students from enrolling in career and technology courses.
  4. Establish a $25 million Jobs and Education for Texans (JET) fund to provide support for postsecondary CTE courses, including startup funding for new programs.
  5. Link any incentive funding for postsecondary technical education to measures that help ensure the state receives a positive return on its investment.


Real People, Real Stories

Melissa Silva

Melissa Silva was the first member of her family to attend college. After graduating from high school in 1992, she wanted to go to college but could not afford it. She took a job in food service instead. She jokes that a move from Lampasas to the Austin area was a “promotion,” because the tips were better.

With two children and no career prospects in sight, she wanted to build a better life for herself and her family. She tried taking a few classes, but saw that she and her husband couldn’t afford for her to study full time.

Then she heard about Capital IDEA, a workforce development initiative founded by Austin Interfaith and the Central Texas business community, which provided help with day care and tuition. After more than two years of studies at Austin Community College, Melissa became one of eight admitted to the medical sonography cardiac program.

School was more than a full-time job for Melissa. “I got up at 5:30 Monday through Friday, and I didn’t get back until after 6:00, and then I studied. We didn’t have cable, we didn’t go out,” she says. She graduated in December 2005, and now says, “It is all worth it. I am proud that my kids have watched their mommy doing this.”

Her new career allowed Melissa and her family to buy a home in Cedar Park. Today, Melissa works at Seton Medical Center Williamson Hospital. When asked by a group of women what she feels was the most valuable thing her education gave her, Melissa replied, “Worth. I feel that I have worth.”

Special thanks to Melissa Silva and the Industrial Areas Foundation for sharing this success story. For more information on Capital IDEA, visit http://www.capitalidea.org/ or call (512) 457-8610.

Real People, Real Stories

Amanda Soto

Amanda Soto, a single mother of two, has faced many obstacles in her life. At one point, she earned barely enough to cover her family’s basic needs.

Now, however, her future is much brighter. After much hard work, Amanda graduated from El Paso Community College in Spring 2006 as a registered nurse. The first in her family to earn a college degree, Amanda graduated with honors (maintaining a 3.6 GPA and a place on the Dean’s List) and served as treasurer of El Paso Community College’s chapter of the Texas Student Nursing Association.

Today, Amanda works at Las Palmas Medical Center and earns more than $21 an hour. And she hasn’t stopped learning. Still working full time, Amanda is also pursuing a bachelor’s degree in nursing at the University of Texas at El Paso, and plans to obtain her master’s degree as well. Her life and the lives of her children have changed permanently, and for the better.

Special thanks to Amanda Soto and the Industrial Areas Foundation for sharing this success story.

Required Plug-ins