Taylor Davis, Wichita Falls Talent Partnership Director
Since my arrival in April, a common concern from employers regarding their ability to grow is the lack of qualified local talent to recruit and retain for positions at all levels within the business. They also have the inability to recruit quality individuals from outside Wichita County due to the cost of relocation for the candidate and competition from larger cities in Texas and Oklahoma.
While hiring local is a priority, this helps grow our workforce.
Though we will always prioritize the educating and hiring of local, home-grown talent, due to stagnant population growth and record-low unemployment, employers have found it difficult to fill positions with our current local workforce. We are working diligently to improve community-wide educational attainment and create talent pipelines to achieve our long-term workforce goals, but employers need an option that finds employees right now.
Sharp Iron Group, a world-class contract manufacturer and service provider in Wichita Falls, found themselves facing this same challenge when trying to recruit welders. Our local workforce simply could not fill the volume of positions that Sharp Iron Group was offering.
In a recent Cash For Jobs incentive package, Sharp Iron Group was offered a $3,000 incentive per employee to recruit eight welders from out-of-county by helping off-set relocation costs for the candidates. With the help of Travis Haggard, Vice President of Business Retention and Expansion for the Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce, Sharp Iron Group was able to form a relationship with Tulsa Welding School in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to recruit the welders they needed.
This established a talent pipeline that will continue to help Sharp Iron Group fill their open positions.
The workforce recruitment/relocation incentive program has been great for Sharp Iron Group. Working together with the Chamber, we’ve been able to bring some new skilled workers to our company and to our city. It’s a win-win. Our company grows, our community grows, and everyone’s opportunities grow along with it.”Michael Stanford, President of Sharp Iron Group
Groundwork laid to create the employee relocation incentive
Inspired by the incentive received by Sharp Iron Group, the Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce and the Talent Partnership created and proposed an employee relocation incentive. The idea of this incentive is to encourage out-of-towners to permanently move to our community and fill our open jobs when a qualified workforce is unavailable.
On November 5, 2019, City Council approved the Wichita Falls Economic Development Corporation’s recommendation to fund $200,000 toward an employee relocation incentive. The incentive offers employers $4,000-8,000 to recruit new employees from outside of the Wichita Falls MSA after they establish residency in our area and retain employment for six months.
The amount offered varies per position dependent on salary and begins incentivizing positions at $15/hour or higher. As outlined by the Texas Legislature, any company in Wichita County that falls within the authorized North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes can request this incentive. No money is exchanged until the company fulfills its performance agreement.
This is a major victory for our companies, our population count and our economy!
I’ve had an exciting few months as my husband and I have been adjusting to our new community in Wichita Falls, Texas. When I began at the Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce I hit the ground running with the Talent Partnership catalyst. To kickstart this catalyst, the Action Team targeted a few great initiatives we could get up and running relatively quickly.
These include business support, the Military Spouse Professional Network, and internships.
Working closely with Travis Haggard, our Vice President of Business Retention and Expansion, I’ve been able to speak one-on-one with businesses about their workforce goals and challenges. With these conversations, I’ve done my best to apply the knowledge I possess about talent recruitment and retention to offer encouragement and recommendations on ways to move forward.
I’ve heard real-world stories about what’s gone right and what could’ve gone better. These conversations have been inspirational in shaping the direction we will be going in the future.
Another huge success is the launch of our Military Spouse Professional Network with the help of Adrene Wike, our Director of Business Intelligence. This national Hiring Our Heroes program backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation includes a Facebook and LinkedIn group specific to military spouses, past and present, at Sheppard AFB and in Wichita Falls, TX.
While connecting our career-oriented military spouses together through these groups, we’ll also be offering monthly professional development programming to support their growth. This can include networking, LinkedIn help, resume and cover letter writing, co-working space and more! We’re excited to host our official launch event at B Cocoa Artisan Chocolates, a military spouse-owned business, in October.
Lastly, I’ve been working diligently on writing a “how-to” guide for employers to establish their own internship program. This inclusive document addresses the benefits of hiring interns, the considerations to make before starting the process and everything they need to know from start to finish. This will be a collaborative effort with our Talent Partnership Action Team and local area educators and businesses.
We’ve made a lot of headway, but we have even more to achieve! Thanks for going on this journey with us.
Create a “collective impact” partnership that aligns education and training providers and cross-sector partners to improve educational outcomes and create a more competitive workforce.
In the modern economy, talent is perhaps the key driver of economic success and prosperity. The availability of a skilled and educated workforce is a top factor influencing location decisions across many business sectors, and at the individual level, educational attainment is strongly correlated with earning potential and personal well-being. The adult population in Wichita Falls is relatively less educated than state and national averages. And while this gap has been closing in recent years, the fact that younger people in Wichita Falls are less educated than older residents suggests this trend may not be sustainable.
There are two ways that communities can raise educational attainment rates. The first is attracting new residents from outside the community. Research revealed that Wichita Falls is losing residents to other parts of Texas and the United States. Ensuring that Wichita Falls is attractive to talented individuals is an important strategic need, and other portions of our economic strategy seek to address it. But Wichita Falls can also seek to improve our workforce by producing and retaining “homegrown” talent.
Wichita Falls has the building blocks of a quality “talent pipeline,” including Midwestern State University, Vernon College, the new Career Education Center (CEC), and public schools in which parents and recent students generally view favorably. Additionally, non-profits and other organizations operate a range of programs designed to improve educational attainment and individual outcomes. But public input also revealed areas for improvement. In particular, stakeholders recognize the need for the region’s education and training providers, the business community, non-profits, and other partners to work more collaboratively.
To that end, communities around the country have embraced “collective impact” models that bring together a range of partners to work toward system-level improvements to a local talent pipeline. Adopting such a model would allow the community to work together to raise educational attainment levels, strengthen the region’s workforce, and improve the lives of its current and future residents.
The core of this portion is based on aligning people with jobs through ongoing/continuing education and job placement, internships and more. It will rely heavily on the “collective impact” partnership across all sectors – job providers, educators, and action team.
“Collective impact” is premised on cross-sector collaboration. Partners work collectively through a “backbone” committee or entity that is responsible for aligning the existing efforts of its various members and identifying ways in which services can be improved. In Wichita Falls, this backbone committee should be comprised of key leaders from Midwestern State, Vernon College, WFISD, other public and private schools and districts, early childhood education partners, private businesses, foundations, non-profits, and social service providers, faith-based organizations, and other organizations integral to the “talent pipeline.”
In most cases, the backbone entity of a collective impact education partnership will include multiple subgroups or “action teams” dedicated to a specific issue or set of issues – e.g. dropout prevention or kindergarten readiness. In Wichita Falls, action teams could be formed around issues that emerged as community priorities during research and public input, including early childhood education programs, additional support services for students and families from economically disadvantaged households, and re-engagement of high school graduates who are not in school or attached to the workforce, among others.
Action teams should be chaired by one or more members of the backbone committee, but their membership is typically broader than that of the backbone and often includes practitioner-level members. The backbone committee and its action teams must constantly seek to optimize programming. To do so, it must utilize on-the-ground observations and local expertise in combination with student-level data that can help determine whether actions are leading to improved outcomes.
CONNECTIONS TO COMMUNITY GOALS
Attract and retain residents and businesses: A strong workforce is essential to economic competitiveness and education systems can play an important role in individual location decisions.
Increase prosperity for all residents: Educational attainment is closely tied to living standards.
Enhance the quality of life and quality of place: Increased educational attainment is associated with a range of improved outcomes at the individual level.
Promote inclusivity and equity: A key component of the Partnership would be to enhance, expand, and align programming for all residents, particularly those from traditionally underserved groups.
Improve internal and external perceptions of Wichita Falls: A visible, community-wide effort to increase educational attainment would boost local pride and positively impact outside image.
Taylor Davis, Wichita Falls Talent Partnership Director
DeAndrea Y. Davis CFP, Prothro Blair Financial
Cammie Dean, Midwestern State University
Ron Duncan, Magic Aire
Kristi Faulkner, United Regional
Henry Florsheim, Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce
Travis Haggard, Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce
Bert Huff, Jr., MyStaf
Dusty Johnston, Vernon College – Century City Locations
Emily Klement, Catholic Charities Fort Worth
Christi Klyn, Wichita Falls Independent School District
Mike Kuhrt, Wichita Falls Independent School District
Hillary Robinson, Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce
Gonzalo Robles, Café Con Leche
Steve Sparks, Wichita Falls Faith Mission, Inc.
Michael Stanford, Sharp Iron Group
Adrene Wike, Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce
George Woodward, Sheppard Air Force Base
Carol Marlar, North Texas Area United Way
Jill Brown, Workforce Solutions North Texas
Dr. James Johnson, Midwestern State University
Michell Wood, Wichita Falls Independent School District
Paris Ward, Wichita Falls Housing Authority
Establish and staff the Wichita Falls Talent Partnership “backbone entity” to align the local talent pipeline
• Ensuring that the right partners are “around the table” will be critical to the success of the Talent Partnership. Identify and secure commitments from an initial set of key partners (e.g. WFISD, Vernon College, MSU, the Chamber, etc.) then leverage the knowledge and connections of these organizations to involve a broad range of education and training providers and other important community partners
• Ensure that Wichita Falls’ diversity – racial and ethnic, cultural, etc. – is reflected in the membership of the backbone entity and its various action teams; engage individuals and organizations who can serve as “community connectors” to make certain that communities of color and other constituencies are represented in the Partnership and effectively served by programs and services
• Research best-practice models and engage a national network to assist in Partnership development; formally establish the Partnership entity based on the desired corporate model and pursue public and private sources of funding to ensure that it is professionally staffed and operated
• Retain professional staff to ensure the effective and collaborative operation of the Partnership
• Develop a “pledge of support” for partners to signify their commitment to working collaboratively to raise levels of educational attainment in the community
Task the Partnership with developing programming that enhances the local talent pipeline
• Task the newly convened backbone entity with identifying a set of initial focus areas for the community to address through collective action
• As a first step, utilize partner knowledge to inventory existing programs and services to determine what is working well, identify gaps, and seek opportunities for alignment and enhancement
• Steering Committee members identified “pre-birth to 5” and the point at which an individual is about to enter the workforce as critical time periods on which the community should focus; based on research and input, initial focus areas could also reasonably include some or all of the following:
– Expanded access to early childhood education options for middle-income families
– Kindergarten readiness. See Kindergarten Readiness Program in Marin County, CA
– A range of wraparound services for students and families from low-income households and/or with limited English proficiency to address achievement gaps. See Parent University (Mesa, AZ)
– A community-wide program focused on retaining graduates by establishing long-term relationships between individuals and employers. See Greater Grads
– Programs to develop, retain, and/or attract teachers, professors, and instructors at all levels of the education and training pipeline
– Identifying options to develop additional dedicated public funding streams to support education and training institutions and programs
Create “action teams” beneath the Partnership to advance work in specific program areas
• Create action-oriented teams under the backbone entity to align and enhance programs and initiatives in one or more of the focus areas. Identify one or more members of the backbone committee to chair each action team
• Task chairs and other backbone partners with identifying additional organizations and individuals to populate each action team
• Through each action team, design and align programming, develop resources, and work directly with partners to ensure effective implementation
Will be posted here as progress is reported
Develop accountability metrics and a robust data program that safeguards student privacy
• Develop a set of accountability metrics to measure progress for all education and training partners
• Work with a network such as Alignment USA or StriveTogether to develop a student-level data program; develop protocols for safeguarding the privacy of students and families
• Create a partnership website to publicize high-level data through an online “data dashboard” and communicate progress to partners, investors, and the general public through annual reports