Recently, the Wichita Falls Chamber held two roundtable luncheons aimed to discover the needs for our workforce. The first meeting included a local manufacturers group and the second meeting was focused around Sheppard Air Force Base.

Why?

We know it’s important to economic and community development to ensure goals align, specifically when it comes to making connections between our local industry’s workforce demands and our veteran and military spouse population.

There can be a wide disconnect between the many resources available. Bringing these assets together creates a greater chance of facilitating stronger outcomes.  

During our first roundtable luncheon, we learned the types of skills/people our manufacturers are in need of welders, skilled tradesmen, and one specific example, people with the ability to read blueprints.

Bob Peyton, one of the Board of Directors at the Career Education Center (C.E.C), felt a significant call to action at the close of the luncheon. He spoke with C.E.C. leadership to look at implementing specific training and continued education centered around particular skill sets based on the manufacturer group’s feedback.

That’s a small step with far-reaching possibilities showcasing how powerful a meeting of the minds can be.

The second roundtable lunch featured leadership from Sheppard AFB and individuals from the community who work in supportive roles for our veterans and their spouses. Wichita Falls is not only proud to be defense community but we understand the economic impact our largest employer has on the community.

Our Director of Research, Adrene Wike, opened the discussion with introductions, followed by a free flow of discussions based around existing resources, programs that could possibly be initiated, and the goals of the Chamber.

What did we discover?

There are many highly skilled “trailing spouses” (military spouses stationed at SAFB) and veterans that are seeking jobs but unable to find the connections needed. They are seeking positions that match their higher education and experience.

The new Talent Partnership Director will work toward picking up where these conversations left off.

How will they do that?

They will, facilitate meetings, create programs, continue to foster connections and ensure the available resources are being utilized to their greatest capacity.

Overcoming perceptions will help Wichita Falls to fill more positions by using an untapped resource built in at Sheppard Air Force Base. Brig. Gen. Jolly (Commander SAFB) commented during the luncheon that a military spouse would leave a company/organization better than when they arrived. He went on to say that this is regardless of the possibility that their time may be limited.

Having a clearer understanding of what our local manufacturer’s needs are and understanding the availability of military spouses and veterans will help to strengthen our local workforce.

We look forward to connecting the dots, the minds and the jobs where it is needed most.

Katie Britt is the Marketing Director for the Wichita Falls Chamber.