Lone Star College Keeps up with Workforce Needs
Educators in Tomball and Magnolia are expanding opportunities to prepare students for local workforce needs with new career and technical education pathways and postsecondary programs launching this fall.
Data from the Texas Workforce Commission and the Gulf Coast Workforce Board—the Houston region’s board of directors for Workforce Solutions—shows hundreds of annual job openings in occupations such as nursing assistants; cosmetology; and heating, ventilation and air conditioning mechanics across the Gulf Coast region through 2028. These are fields that typically require postsecondary education but no degree, according to the entities.
“It is so nice that there’s several areas where our students can leave high school with a certification, like for instance a certified [nursing] assistant, [and] go directly into the workforce,” Foy Campbell, the director of career and technical education in Magnolia ISD, said in an interview.
Texas Education Agency data shows the number of CTE students in each district’s two traditional high schools has increased in Tomball and Magnolia ISDs by 56.62% and 15.81%, respectively, from the 2014-15 school year to 2019-20, the most recent year available.
While Campbell said additional CTE pathways are being considered, Tomball ISD announced in December plans to launch four new CTE pathways in the 2022-23 school year: aviation, cybersecurity, law enforcement and legal studies. District officials also said in a May email that renovations are underway at the Tomball Innovation Center at FM 2920 and Hufsmith-Kohrville Road to accommodate more CTE programs.
In addition, Lee Ann Nutt, the president of Lone Star College-Tomball, said in an interview that program expansions are on the table for health professions in Tomball. Community Impact Newspaper previously reported LSCS officials finalized programming for the long-awaited LSC-Magnolia Center in January, a satellite of LSC-Montgomery.
“We did labor market analysis before the pandemic and repeated the process in the last six months to see what changes, if any, had occurred,” LSC-Montgomery President Rebecca Riley said in a May email. “Although there were not major shifts in many sectors, needs in education and health care—which were already high—were reinforced by the stats. HVAC also surfaced, along with other trades, because of the amount of construction taking place in the area.”
Riley said in early May that design work for the LSC-Magnolia Center was wrapping up. The center is planned at the corner of FM 1774 and FM 1486, near Magnolia West High School, and Community Impact Newspaper previously reported the center is anticipated to be completed in 2024 with permitting and construction ongoing throughout 2022 and 2023. The LSCS bond voters approved in 2014 allots $28.85 million for the center, according to LSCS information.
Riley said the center will include instructional space for HVAC and emergency medical services programs; science labs; classrooms; a library; administrative offices; and study areas.
“There’s a lot of growth with these homes and subdivisions being built, a lot of commercial facilities being built, and a lot of them are conditioned. Even the warehouses are conditioned,” said Brian Wright, owner of Crossway Mechanical LLC, an HVAC contractor in Tomball. “There is a huge opportunity and huge need in the Tomball area for them to have a training program.”
According to the Gulf Coast Workforce Board’s 2021-24 Local Plan examining economic needs, the report estimates 58.4% of all jobs in the Gulf Coast region, which includes 13 counties in the Houston-Galveston area, will be “middle-skill” jobs by 2028, meaning those that require some postsecondary education or on-the-job training.
Data from the Texas Workforce Commission shows the number of HVAC mechanic and installer positions is expected to grow 19.6% from 2018-28 with 950 annual job openings in the Gulf Coast Region.
“We recently met with Magnolia ISD’s CTE director, who applauded the decision to include HVAC at Magnolia Center due to local demand,” Riley said in May.
Expanding health care professions
Several health care professions are also included in the workforce board’s in-demand occupations requiring some postsecondary education.
As such, LSC-Tomball is planning to expand its Health Science Building, located on Graham Drive, Nutt said in an interview.
“We definitely have kicked off the process for programming for another building … on the same property that our existing health science building is on. That will enable us to add additional health care programs,” Nutt said.
Nutt said preliminary programming has not been approved as the building is about two to three years from opening, but initial plans are to offer associate degrees in anesthesia technology, ophthalmic technology, neurodiagnostic technology and polysomnographic technology.
In addition, LSC-Tomball is adding a medical lab technician program this fall and a dental assistant program at its LSC-Creekside Center, Nutt said.
“We’re excited about that and think that will really help in the health care world for some of those needs,” Nutt said.
The Tomball campus is also partnering with TISD and HCA Houston Healthcare Tomball on a Pathways in Technology Early College High School, or P-TECH, in health professions, Nutt said. The partners submitted the application to the state and anticipate the program will be approved for fall 2023, she said.
“It is a unique partnership that is intended for students to get into the workforce right after high school,” Nutt said.
At the high school level, data shows local school districts are also seeing more students enroll in CTE classes.
Campbell said MISD students can receive credentials such as an emergency medical technician certificate, certified nursing assistant, automotive certification or a cosmetology license.
“We’ve been pretty steady growing,” he said.
In Magnolia and Tomball ISDs, Texas Education Agency data shows 66.82% and 77.09%, respectively, of traditional high school students were enrolled in CTE courses in 2019-20, the most recent data available. This is an increase from about 64% of students in each district in 2014-15.
TISD Director of CTE Karla Sandoval said in an emailed statement that the district’s four new CTE programs launching in the fall were among 10 programs that focus groups last fall identified to align with current and future job opportunities projected for Texas and the Gulf Coast region.
“We chose to start with those programs since the physical spaces that those programs will occupy at our new Innovation Center could most easily be fast-tracked and would allow us to get students into them quickly,” Sandoval said. “Future CTE program expansion at the Innovation Center will require more extensive remodeling to the facility.”
While CTE enrollment has grown, data from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board shows fall enrollment at public state and community colleges in Texas declined from 2019-21 while enrollment at state technical colleges surged 40.85% in that time.
“We do have plans to expand [CTE] in the future. …. We are working with Lone Star College [on the Magnolia Center] … to see which courses they are going to offer there and how we can partner,” Campbell said. “Even though we’re not necessarily ready to announce a particular new pathway, there’s several that we’re exploring.”