Dallas Mayor Releases Major ‘Upskilling Dallas’ Report to Help Drive Workforce Development

"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," Mayor Eric Johnson said on the report's release.

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson has released a major report called “Upskilling Dallas: How to Modernize the City’s Workforce for the Jobs of Tomorrow.”

The report comes after months of data-gathering and discussions with educational, philanthropic, nonprofit, and business sector partners—particularly Dallas College. Cicero Group, a research and management consulting firm, produced the report, after Mayor Johnson commissioned it earlier this year with funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies. 

“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,” Johnson said in a post from the Mayor’s office.

“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 mayor added.

The report details four recommendations for improving workforce development:

:: Workforce Liaison: Appoint an individual to implement the recommendations, track progress, and ensure the city is represented in regional workforce development efforts.
:: Formal Collaboration: Establish a formal agreement with existing workforce development organizations to align efforts and accountability for outcomes.
:: Program Engagement: Leverage the mayor’s unique role to communicate and promote local upskilling programs to target audiences.
:: Navigation Support: Refine digital supports to assist working-age adults in navigating upskilling opportunities and resources.

“Workforce development is one of the most important and least discussed issues of our time, especially here in Dallas,” Johnson said in the post. “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.”

Dallas College chancellor: ‘a trajectory toward a rewarding future’

“The recommendations of the panel are heartening and come at a perfect time,” said Dr. Joe May, chancellor of Dallas College, in the post. “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.”

“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,” May added.

Automation already threatened jobs—then the pandemic hit

In 2019, the Brookings Institution estimated that 25% of U.S. jobs could be threatened by automation in years to come. That was before the pandemic, which accelerated the pace of economic disruption. Even with improvement in the economy, many workers remain unemployed or underemployed.

‘Great jobs are waiting!’

“Workers and those who have yet to enter the workforce need an accessible path to a ‘work and learn’ strategy for upskilling,” said Laurie Larrea, president of Workforce Solutions Greater Dallas, which participated in the discussions that informed the report.

“Through this report, upskilling and the accessible delivery of skills training is the priority,” Larrea added in the post. “Data shows the workforce has changed and will continue to evolve quickly to meet the advances in business. Great jobs are waiting!”

City’s Workforce, Education, and Equity Committee on the report

“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,” said Jaynie Schultz, committee chairwoman of the Dallas City Council’s Workforce, Education, and Equity Committee. 

“Workforce development is more than an economic development issue. It’s an equity issue,” added the committee’s vice chairman, Councilmember Casey Thomas. “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.”

City of Dallas will fund a new Small Business Center

The city’s 2021–22 fiscal year budget includes funding to help implement the recommendations through a new Small Business Center. Johnson also pledged in his State of the City address to use his discretionary American Rescue Plan Act funds to supplement the efforts.

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