Higher education called upon to close skills gaps
Somewhere between 50,000 and 75,000 Texas jobs were lost in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, but the state’s economy is already showing signs of recovery, President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas Robert Kaplan said during remarks at the seventh annual Border Economic Development and Entrepreneurship Symposium in McAllen on Dec. 1.
“We are already seeing a rebound and a reclaiming of those jobs,” Kaplan said. He added that he expects a rapid pace of recovery in the early part of 2018, when he predicted that job growth will return to pre-storm levels. “We are optimistic about the future of the state.”
During remarks moderated by Marie T. Mora, associate provost for faculty diversity and professor of economics with the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Kaplan said an aging U.S. population presents one of the greatest challenges to future economic growth. An aging population that is not being adequately replenished means fewer workers to drive growth.
“The native born workforce is going to continue to decline,” Kaplan told the audience of about 200 business and community leaders. “Immigrants and their children will make up more of the workforce. We need to get people in the workforce and get them productive.”
He said employment in “middle skills jobs” demands more education than in the past. This is due to rapid advances in technology in the fields of technology, manufacturing and others. To keep pace with the demand, he called on community colleges and vocational schools to do a better job helping close a skills gap.
“Half of small businesses have more jobs than they can find workers,” Kaplan said. “We’re behind and we have got to catch up.”
During Kaplan’s swing through the Rio Grande Valley, he planned to meet with trade sector leaders and banking professionals for round-table discussions on the South Texas economy and trade with Mexico.