Looking at training for the community’s future

Originally posted by The Eagle.

Folks love to talk about the future. Policy wonks tirelessly point to projections, statistics and trends. Projections and predictions, however, are no substitute for preparation.

An important projection to consider: The Brazos County population is projected to double by 2050. While it seems like a long time from now, children born today will land squarely in the middle of that population boom when they reach 18.

Partnering the growth with an increasingly complex economy created by a number of research and business initiatives, decision makers in politics, education and business must develop a 360-degree view of how to meet and overcome current and future population and workforce challenges in Brazos County. As we know through the hard work of the Research Valley Partnership, which interacts daily with businesses that are struggling to find talent, “new-collar” jobs (high-quality scientific, technical and trade occupations) are being created in our community every day.

The workforce necessary to fill these positions requires strong math and communications basics, as well as strong technical and workforce training. While students have great academic options, we are not currently getting both in Brazos County. The lack of a comprehensive community college is creating an opportunity gap between the economic opportunities of our region, and the education we need to meet those opportunities.

If we don’t take critical action toward closing that gap, Brazos County will not be driving our economic future. We will be chasing it.

The Brazos Talent Initiative committee facilitated by the Partnership grew out of a vision to expand rapidly career and technical infrastructure and programs in the county, and meet the demands of the new-collar jobs being created in the region.

The Initiative’s current and critical imperative is a petition we are circulating in the community authorizing Brazos County commissioners to call an election to create a new community college district. This necessary legal step puts the decisions in the hands of the voters — the people who live, work and learn here, and the people who have a stake in the future of Brazos County. This election puts the power in the hands of Brazos County, where it belongs.

The creation of a new comprehensive community college means we’d be prepared to meet Brazos County’s needs with the resources, infrastructure and programs necessary to continue building our world class community. A new district means Brazos County would be able to fill the opportunity gap by reducing tuition for our county residents, while expanding programs and increasing access to first-class academic and workforce programs designed to keep and attract employers in our region — and prevent them from “importing” workers from other areas.

The committee has remained committed to examining all possible options to close this opportunity gap. In our discussions with other institutions, including Blinn College, it has become clear that the best option is the one in which Brazos County voters are allowed the self-governance their votes and their taxes guarantee them.

Guarantee your right to self-govern. Let your voice be heard. Sign the petition to get Brazos County on its way to closing the opportunity gap and driving our economic future.

Ivan Olson and Bobby Gutierrez are co-chairs of the Research Valley Partnership Brazos Talent Initiative Steering Committee and active business leaders in Bryan and College Station.

About The Research Valley Partnership

The Research Valley Partnership is a public-private economic development corporation serving the residents of Brazos County. The Partnership pursues economic growth in the county without regard to jurisdiction through its programs, services and initiatives to help launch, grow and locate companies in Brazos County.

About the Brazos Talent Initiative

In June of 2016, the Research Valley Partnership formed the Talent Pipeline Steering Committee in response to unmet demand in Brazos County and the greater Research Valley, recognizing lack of talent will inhibit economic growth fundamental to the Partnership’s mission. Go to BrazosTalentInitiative.org for more information.