Jobs are going unfilled – and Texans are out of work – because there’s a “skills gap” between job seekers and job qualifications, business leaders said in Tyler on Thursday.
At a press conference held Thursday at the Genesis Group offices, Genesis CEO Phil Burks, Tyler Economic Development Council CEO Tom Mullins and former Tyler Chamber of Commerce Chairman Bob Westbrook discussed the gap and said there’s a solution – early childhood education.
“The fastest growing industry segment this decade is oil and gas, and those jobs all need post-secondary training,” Burks said. “But we know that 11 percent of all high school students fail to graduate on time. We need to find ways to fix that. That’s the problem in a nutshell. We have a gap and we need to fix it.”
The group is calling on the Legislature to increase funding – or at least to refrain from cutting funds – for early childhood education in public schools.
“There are many ways to tackle a problem, and one of the most effective is early childhood education,” Westbrook explained. “We need to focus on pre-reading, pre-math, learning to count, and critical social skills. That old adage that you learn everything you need to know in life when you’re in kindergarten is true. As a business owner, I know these programs produce a stronger and healthier workforce. We either make the investment now or make the investment later.”