Will Texas have the skilled, educated workforce necessary to keep the state strategically competitive in the changing global economy? That's the question many companies are asking now as they adapt to tough economic times and adjust to pressures from a global marketplace.
Texans have been put to the test before, and Susan Combs is making sure young Texans are prepared now to meet tomorrow's challenges head on, armed with the education, skills and training they need for an ever changing job market. She wants to ensure students are prepared to succeed and have the opportunity to achieve their goals and dreams.
An educated workforce is vital for the state's continued economic growth. However, the rising costs of a higher education and the current economic conditions facing many Texans are making it harder for families to save and pay for college and preventing many students from reaching their educational goals.
In September 2008 Susan unveiled the Texas Tuition Promise Fund, a prepaid college tuition program that allows families to plan ahead and protects them from the rising costs of colleges and universities. Under this flexible plan, families can purchase tuition units that represent a fixed amount of tuition or fees. There are three types of tuition units that will fit any family's need, and the units can be used at all four- or two-year public colleges and universities in Texas, at private Texas colleges or at out-of-state institutions.
Texas families are taking advantage of this landmark initiative. Almost 13,000 children enrolled in the Texas Tuition Promise Fund during its first annual enrollment period, and more than $239 million in prepaid college tuition contracts were sold from Sept. 1, 2008, to Feb. 28, 2009.
The Comptroller's Office also offers two educational savings plans -- the Lone Star 529 Plan and the Texas College Savings Plan. Both allow Texas residents to establish a savings plan for their children's education and benefit from tax-free earnings.
Susan also launched the Every Chance Every Texan website in 2008 as an educational and career planning tool for students and families. The site is a wealth of information on careers, jobs and Texas colleges and universities.
However, not all Texas students want to pursue a college education. In 2008 Susan released Texas Works, a look at the growing shortage of skilled workers and the educational and training options needed to meet the changing job market in Texas. Susan knows that with the state's large, diverse economy, many young Texans may need to look at a variety of educational options to reach their career goals.
Texas Works pointed out that according to the U.S. Department of Education, about 80 percent of the fastest-growing jobs added in the future will not require a bachelor's degree, although they will require some postsecondary education.
According to the Texas Workforce Commission's projections, Texas will have an average of nearly 44,000 job openings annually through 2016 for occupations requiring an associate degree or postsecondary vocational award. With an increased need for skilled workers and qualified employees, workforce training either at community colleges or technical schools can meet this demand.
Texas is a state of growth -- growth in population, growth and jobs and growth in economic opportunity. It's a state where Susan knows big ideas and big dreams can meet the challenges of a changing business climate. Susan is working to ensure our workforce is educated and trained to meet these challenges and Texas can continue to grow and remain competitive in a global market.