(TNS) — Only a quarter of young adults in Dallas County earns a living wage but that rate is even lower for Blacks and Latinos, according to new findings.
So Dallas leaders are launching a campaign that aims to double the rate of young adults equipped to earn a living wage by 2040.
The Dallas Thrives plan, announced Tuesday, will bring together a coalition of nonprofits, government agencies and institutions of higher education to strengthen the workforce pipeline and expand access to post-secondary training.
Those behind the initiative hope to disrupt the systems that have kept young people in Dallas from gaining the skills needed to sustain a family. Officials unveiled the plan, and discussed the state of the city’s workforce, during a virtual event hosted by the Dallas Regional Chamber.
Here are some of the takeaways:
Where the Workforce Stands
In Dallas, White adults between the ages of 25 to 34 are three times more likely to earn at least $50,000 per year than their Black or Hispanic peers. That’s the amount the MIT Living Wage Calculator estimates one working adult needs to support a small family.
“Relative to other large urban counties across Texas, Dallas has the deepest living-wage inequity by race,” according to the Boston Consulting Group, which issued a report that will help guide the Dallas Thrives initiative.
Roughly 85 percent of jobs that pay a living wage require some education beyond a high school diploma. Yet only about 4 in 10 young adults in Dallas possess an associate’s degree or higher.
That means Dallas employers frequently rely on “imported talent” to fill positions.
The pandemic, officials said, only exacerbated the importance of a post-secondary education. Those who completed only some college or less were far more likely to file an unemployment claim in recent months.
How Dallas Thrives Will Work
The plan, spearheaded by The Dallas Regional Chamber and The Commit Partnership, will zero-in on five areas: establishing a workforce pipeline that aligns with in-demand regional living wage job data ; expanding consistent career exploration; supporting young adults in college readiness and credential attainment; providing work and networking experiences; and investing in employers that engage in local workforce development.
Initial philanthropic efforts include support from JPMorgan Chase, Dallas College Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Capital One and Blue Meridian Partners. The budget will be more than $3 million in its first year, with more expected.
(Todd Williams, the chairman and CEO of Commit, supports the DMN Education Lab through the Todd A. Williams Family Foundation.)
“This coalition signals the universal agreement that Dallas must be a place where race, income or geography does not define one’s ability to participate in the tremendous prosperity around us,” said Drexell Owusu, DRC senior vice president of education and workforce.
If Dallas Thrives is successful at its aspirational goal of doubling the percentage of young people earning a living wage in two decades, it would have a tremendous impact. The consulting group projects the local economy would boost by nearly $4 billion while lifting tens of thousands out of poverty.
Building Middle Skills
Even before he’d heard of the coronavirus, Texas Workforce Commision chairman Bryan Daniel was worried about what he calls the “middle-skills gap.”
Daniel defines the middle-skill workforce as jobs between entry level and professional careers that may not require a four-year degree but do require additional training.
“I’m talking about jobs that are high-demand and high-wage,” he said.
Daniel says that bridging the gap between helping job seekers obtain the credentials they need with what employers express are the skills they are most in need of can help individuals acquire the right skills companies are looking for in new hires.
The time is right for job seekers to seek out online training that will help polish or learn new skills because employers are looking to get people back to work, he added.
Connecting the Data
It’s not enough for employers to just tell school districts or colleges what they expect they’ll need in the workforce in five or 10 years.
Companies have to to “connect the data,” said Winjie Tang Miao, a vice president with Texas Health Resources.
She pointed to the anticipated need for almost 16,000 more nurses in Texas by 2030. With that in mind, she said, healthcare organizations need to turn to education leaders and ask: How do we partner with you to fill those jobs?
“Educators are open and excited and thirsty for that information, and it’s up to us to serve it to them and partner with them,” she said.
Learning from COVID
As much as the pandemic hurt the economy, panelists said it also forced them to adapt.
“Unfortunately, it takes a good crisis to create the kind of innovation and collaboration we’re talking about today,” said Ben Magill, an associate vice chancellor at Dallas College.
A virtual job fair last week, for example, featured 6,000 jobs, said Laurie Bouillion Larrea, CEO of Workforce Solutions Greater Dallas.
“Nobody has to drive. Nobody has to park. You can decide the day before and just log in,” she said.
The DMN Education Lab is a community-funded journalism initiative, with support from The Communities Foundation of Texas, The Meadows Foundation, The Dallas Foundation, Southern Methodist University, Todd A. Williams Family Foundation, The Beck Group, Bobby and Lottye Lyle, and the Solutions Journalism Network. The Dallas Morning News retains full editorial control of the Education Lab’s journalism.
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