Industry and area leaders want to strengthen the city’s talent pipeline and expand access to some of the most in-demand jobs — those in healthcare and technology.
Dallas Thrives, first launched in 2020 by the Commit Partnership and the Dallas Regional Chamber, aims to double the number of young adults earning a living wage by 2040.
Through its latest campaign, “Say Yes to Dallas,” the initiative plans on recruiting students, recent graduates and other young adults through a website that would show job postings, free and low-cost training programs and options for tuition reimbursement.
Commit Partnership CEO Todd Williams said roughly 40% of young adults in Dallas County ages 25 to 34 have an associate degree or more, leading to an overall median income for this subset of just $30,000, according to census data.
But the area’s living wage is around $50,000, per the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Living Wage Calculator.
Williams said that after universities saw a significant decline in enrollment throughout the pandemic, leading and supporting young adults to obtain a living wage career is essential. (Williams supports The Dallas Morning News Education Lab through the Todd A. Williams Family Foundation.)
Community colleges nationwide were hollowed out as they carried more than 65% of the total undergraduate enrollment losses, according to the National Student Clearinghouse. Dallas College alone saw a drop of 15% from the fall of 2019 to the fall of last year.
In 2020, 55% of Texas high school graduates did not enroll in college, according to data from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
Jarrad Toussant, Education and Workforce Senior Vice President at the DRC, said the area has thousands of unfilled job openings, but young adults often need help to find them. (The Dallas Regional Chamber is also a supporter of the Education Lab.)
As of January, unemployment rates for ages 20 to 24 are at 9.3%, compared to 12.5% during the same time last year, according to data from the Texas Workforce Commission. Those 25 and over without any post-secondary education had an unemployment rate (6.1%) about twice as high that as those with a bachelor’s degree (2.9%).
Before the pandemic, data showed as many as 42,000 unfilled positions in healthcare and information technology in the region, Toussant said. Funneling students into these industries will help bolster the region’s economy, he added.
“These are occupations that are meaningful economic mobility pathways that we can offer to young adults who are in our own backyard to fill these talent shortages,” he said.
The current average annual health care salary is $58,000, according to the chamber. Such jobs in need of workers include registered nurses, physical therapists or pharmacy technicians. Tech professionals currently average about $97,000 per year. Those positions in high demand include software developers, computer engineers and solutions architects.
Through partnerships with Amazon and Bank of America, initiative leaders want to create equitable opportunities for young adults.
Vickie Yakunin, head of community affairs at Amazon in North Texas, said the company provided video content for the chamber in which software engineers, data scientists and workers in different technical jobs talk about their background and the certifications they needed to get to acquire their jobs.
Bringing together employers, educators and thought leaders to create career pathways is critical, Jennifer Chandler, Dallas president at Bank of America, said in a statement
“Our goal is to generate economic mobility in our communities,” Chandler said.
The DMN Education Lab deepens the coverage and conversation about urgent education issues critical to the future of North Texas.
The DMN Education Lab is a community-funded journalism initiative, with support from The Beck Group, Bobby and Lottye Lyle, Communities Foundation of Texas, The Dallas Foundation, Dallas Regional Chamber, Deedie Rose, Garrett and Cecilia Boone, The Meadows Foundation, Solutions Journalism Network, Southern Methodist University and Todd A. Williams Family Foundation. The Dallas Morning News retains full editorial control of the Education Lab’s journalism.