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Summary: The Texas workforce is flourishing and has an urgent demand for employees who have certifications. SB 441 seeks to address this need by requiring the Texas Workforce Commission in conjunction with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) to create the Texas Fast Start Program (FSP). The FSP will identify and develop education models to more quickly prepare students for the workforce. SB 441 will award grants to public junior colleges, public state colleges, and public technical institutes to create or expand existing FSPs within their schools. In order to be eligible for FSP funding, the course or program must prepare students to meet workforce needs identified by local employers.
Analysis: Texas has an obligation to fund public higher education. Part of that obligation includes ensuring that public higher education institutions offer programs that will prepare students for the responsibilities of life upon completion of their studies. By working with local businesses to readily identify future employment needs, Texas public higher education institutions can create courses and programs that will allow their graduates to be highly equipped with relevant and marketable skills when they enter the workforce. This increases the value of a degree for the student, gives students options that are mroe relevant to emerging jobs, and ensures that growing industries will have less need to look outside of Texas to meet their workforce needs.
Funding Note: While the input of local employers will be vital to creating FSPs, grants made through this program will go directly to public higher education institutions and not to private industry. Furthermore, this program does not need to be funded through new appropriations. Rather, it will rely on redirecting some Texas Workforce Commission funds to a more suitable purpose than their current use.
Recommendation: This legislation will expand student opportunities, add more value for their education investment, increase the opportunity for Texas-educated workers to find employment in Texas, and keep Texas public higher education institutions more responsive to future workforce needs. We encourage legislators to support SB 441.