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Mayor Johnson Introduces ‘Upskilling Dallas’

City & State

Mayor Eric Johnson during a press release at Dallas College. | Image from Medium

On Thursday, November 18, Mayor Eric Johnson revealed that the research and management consulting firm, Cicero Group, has created a report called “Upskilling Dallas: How to Modernize the City’s Workforce for the Jobs of Tomorrow.”

In a press release, Johnson stated, “By investing in new upskilling efforts and working with our partners to help promote, refine, and expand existing programs, we can help our residents better themselves, make more money, and start exciting new careers. Together, we can build the workforce of the future – one that will attract and grow businesses, build equity, and sustain our city’s outstanding economic growth for years to come.”

The overall goal for Johnson is to provide answers and outcomes on how skills can be learned for residents of Dallas to “succeed in a changing economy,” the press release mentions.

The report consists of data that researchers gathered for months. Partners who brought forth their ideas and aided in the research are knowledgeable in business, nonprofit, philanthropy, and education. One location that helped the report grow was Dallas College.

Mayor Johnson stated, “Workforce development is one of the most important and least discussed issues of our time, especially here in Dallas,” and continued with, “For as long as I can remember, the health of the Dallas economy has been judged in terms of real estate deals or the number of jobs we bring in from someplace else. But to build for our future, we must consider how we can fill those jobs with the people who already call Dallas home.”

The workforce improvement recommendations per the report include workforce liaison, formal collaboration, program engagement, and navigation support.

The Chancellor of Dallas College, Dr. Joe May, stated, “Together with our Dallas College partners, we are increasing the size of the city’s workforce through a diversified portfolio of technical and job-training programs. We recognize that not every life-sustaining and rewarding job requires a four-year degree, and in some cases, as in IT, a certificate opens the first door.”

May also mentioned, “Working in lock-step with our community partners, the path toward a better life through a Dallas College education is more real than ever. There are already too many barriers that keep our high school graduates out of higher education. Through our workforce development programs and our community partners, Dallas College is playing a vital role in getting the citizens of Dallas on a trajectory toward a rewarding future that grows the city’s economy for the health of our regional economy, too.”

Councilmember Casey Thomas and Committee Chairwoman Jaynie Schultz worked with the Cicero Group while they developed the report.

Schultz stated, “If we want a strong city, we need to build a strong workforce. With these recommendations, our city can work with our private partners to expand opportunities across Dallas.”

According to the press release, Thomas stated, “Workforce development is more than an economic development issue. It’s an equity issue,” and added, “I share Mayor Johnson’s passion for helping the people of southern Dallas become more competitive for jobs in the changing economy. Everyone in our city deserves an opportunity for success.”

Funding from the city’s 2021-2022 fiscal year budget will establish a Small Business Center.

In 2019, Mayor Johnson stated that ‘workforce development’ would remain high on his list of future accomplishments when he took office.

The COVID pandemic has set things back in the workforce, although the economy in Dallas has started to recover. Unfortunately, the shortage in labor continues, unemployment rates are still up, and underemployed workers are still an issue.

The President of Workforce Solutions Greater Dallas, Laurie Larrea, stated, “Workers and those who have yet to enter the workforce need an accessible path to a ‘work and learn’ strategy for upskilling,” and added, “As the Workforce Board in Dallas County, Workforce Solutions Greater Dallas joined Mayor Johnson in this quest, and we commend the results.”

Cicero Group spoke with forty-two experts and led seventy meetings to produce the report “Upskilling Dallas: How to Modernize the City’s Workforce for the Jobs of Tomorrow.”

Kerri Briggs of Cicero Group shared, “Our research pointed to the needs of working-age adults, with less than a college education, as a population who can be benefiting more from the city’s economy.” Briggs continued, “We look forward to seeing the actions and impact that can result as the recommendations are implemented.”

According to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ April 2021 report, the percentage of male high school graduates enrolled in college was 59.3 percent. Women high school graduates that enrolled in college were at 66.2 percent.

The number of high school dropouts working or actively looking for a job was 47.5 percent.

The PowerPoint presentation of the report stated that “Mayor Eric Johnson believes that through a collaborative focus on upskilling, Dallas can help break generational cycles of poverty and, as a city, meet its full economic potential.”