As our world has evolved, so has the role of education. The classical idea of education for the sake of enlightenment has given way to a more utilitarian goal: preparation for a career. To their credit, Rio Grande Valley educational institutions, from our universities all the way down to the middle-school level, have established careerbased programs to expose students to, and help prepare them for, jobs they might seek to pursue after they leave the classroom. Even elementary schools hold job fairs that show children the variety of options that await them when they’re ready to enter the job market.
Local collegiatelevel programs now are being examined as part of a major study of educational programs’ relevance to the job market. The international Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has chosen Texas as one of four states it will study, along with Ohio, Virginia and Washington. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board selected the Rio Grande Valley, Dallas, El Paso and Houston for the study.
Members of the Coordinating Board and the Texas Workforce Commission met at South Texas College in September with the OECD study team to gather information on what local higher education institutions are doing, and discuss what more can be done, to help ensure that their graduates attain skills that employers are looking for.
“A project goal is to identify how policymakers can improve the state’s higher education system to anticipate, develop and clearly signal market relevant skills,” Coordinating Board officials said in a statement.
Results of the study are expected to be published next summer.
We believe the Rio Grande Valley was a prime choice for gathering information. Local institutions, at both the university and community college level, have reached out to local business to discuss their needs and how the schools can meet them. For example, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine is working closely with local health care providers to evaluate teaching programs’ relevance to doctors’ and hospitals’ needs. Texas A& M and Texas State Technical College recently forged a deal with the Port of Brownsville to establish a training center at the port to supply tenants with skilled workers. They join Texas Southmost College, which already has a similar center at the port.
The institutions also work with each other, and with local public school districts, to facilitate the logistical challenges of getting a degree. They participate in dual-enrollment programs that allow high-school students to take collegelevel courses before graduation. Students are able to save money on college tuition and enter the job market and start earning money sooner.
We’re sure these and other local efforts will be useful to educators and businesses elsewhere, and Valley entities can learn from programs that are being used elsewhere. We look forward to seeing the results of the study, which promises to help schools tailor their courses to meet market needs, supply businesses with better trained workers, and help students find jobs upon graduation.