Talent is Made Here - Spirit of Collaboration Helps Build Conroe's Qualified Workforce

Talent is Made Here - Spirit of Collaboration Helps Build Conroe's Qualified Workforce Main Photo

19 Aug 2021

More Is Made Here, Area Companies, Newsletter

Conroe's spirit of collaboration has helped lead the way in building a qualified workforce. The Conroe Economic Development Council (CEDC) works with businesses, education, nonprofits, and other community stakeholders to create industry-ready employees. These partners and their dedication to building a sustainable and competent workforce is among the reasons that Talent is Made Here.

Workforce development is a strategic initiative for the CEDC, which works directly with businesses and stakeholders to explore ideas that will help fill the talent pipeline in Conroe. The CEDC and the Conroe/Lake Conroe Chamber of Commerce’s joint Workforce Development Committee developed and implemented a competitive workforce strategy to train individuals for careers and to connect employers with job seekers.

“Our joint Workforce Development Committee has worked closely with our partners to identify skills gaps and implement the kind of training required to fill those gaps,” said CEDC Associate Director - Business Retention and Expansion Jennifer Matthews. “In Conroe, when companies are looking for people with skills, they can find great employees who are trained and ready to work.”

The CEDC’s partners are critical in achieving goals and training a talented workforce for Conroe’s growing economy. Fortunately in the Conroe area, engaging partners to collaborate on this issue is not a difficult task.

“We are extremely fortunate to have amazing partners that are very passionate about workforce development,” added Matthews. “One person or one organization cannot build the necessary talent. It takes collaboration.”

In neighboring Willis, a booming career and technical education (CTE) program is preparing high school students for careers in a large number of industries. A standalone CTE facility opened in 2018 adjacent to Willis High School, minutes from Conroe Park North, to fill the growing need for local talent. Travis Utecht, Willis Independent School District CTE Director, believes their students are prepared to jump into the workforce.

“Our students are learning skills many people don’t learn until college. We want to fill the workforce and talent pipeline by preparing kids for whatever career they pursue,” said Utecht.

Highlighted by programs in welding, health science, culinary arts, manufacturing, information technology, and cybersecurity, students are being exposed to careers in many of the area’s largest and fastest growing industries. Utecht estimates that more than 80 percent of students at Willis High School participate in CTE courses. Twenty-six teachers are based out of the CTE building for the 2021-22 school year, many of whom bring direct industry experience. The demand for career education is a sign for industry that plenty of new talent is entering the pipeline.

“We can help fulfill the needs of companies looking to hire in this area. Our CTE program produces well-rounded students skilled and prepared to be in the workforce,” offered Utecht.

Traditional educational partners, such as Lone Star College, Sam Houston State University, and Conroe Independent School District, have been supplemented by other organizations dedicated to preparing students for life after high school and college. Montgomery County-based nonprofit Education for Tomorrow Alliance (EfTA) is a leading voice at the intersection of business and education. EfTA prepares students by exposing them to professional panels, internships, and other programs to gain real world experience.

“Everything that we do is to help kids think about what’s next in life,” said Monica Bomkamp Enia, EfTA President. “We compliment what they learn in school and help them get insight into career paths. EfTA engages people in a variety of fields so that students can begin to see themselves in their shoes someday.”

EfTA’s roots are in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education; however, the organization has evolved and broadened its reach to include the wide range of industries operating in Montgomery County. Students participating in EfTA’s programs make key connections with business leaders and learn firsthand the attributes necessary to succeed in various careers. EfTA has former participants who have gone through the program, achieved secondary education, returned to work for companies where they interned, and, in some cases, gone on to own the business.

“Businesses constantly tell us how impressed they are with this generation of students. These students are bright, articulate, and capable, which makes business leaders confident about the future,” added Bomkamp Enia.

Businesses locating in Conroe can be assured that local partners are taking the necessary steps to keep the economy thriving. A collaborative approach to workforce development is the first and biggest step on that list. With emphasis from the CEDC and their local partners being on building a diverse and capable workforce, in Conroe, Texas, Talent is Made Here.