Objective: Develop and retain talented individuals in Wichita Falls by connecting students to employment and career exploration opportunities.
In general, there are two ways that a community can grow a stronger workforce: attracting talented individuals from other places and producing “homegrown” talent. For a community such as Wichita Falls with limited population growth, homegrown talent is particularly important. Stakeholders said they would like to see strengthened connections between local employers and the community’s talent pipeline.
The Competitive Assessment revealed several areas to target for improvement. Midwestern State University and Vernon College (counting all campuses) awarded more than 2,000 degrees and certificates in 2020. But input participants said students from these institutions frequently choose to locate elsewhere after graduation. The Wichita Falls Independent School District (by far the region’s largest PK-12 education provider) has high school graduation rates that are far above the Texas average. But just 60 percent of these graduates are considered by the state to be “College, Career, or Military Ready.”
This Key Initiative entails a multi-pronged approach to address these issues. It involves expanding upon the Intern Wichita Falls program that emerged through the implementation of the first Falls Future strategy. When done well, internships can help employers access innovative talent, enhance educational experiences for students, and “attach” program participants to the community. It recommends complementing the existing program and internship guide with a robust program for summer interns and engaging The Circuit young professionals group to help support key activities.
The Initiative also entails working to increase college, career, and military readiness among PK-12 students and working with employers in the trades, advanced manufacturing, etc. to identify career-track positions and better position these opportunities to students and recent graduates who are unsure about college. Finally, it proposes a new youth leadership program to help local high school students enhance their academic, social, and life skills.
- #1: TopCity Interns (Topeka, KS)
- #2: Worlds of Work (West Alabama)
- #3: Youth Leadership Initiative (Des Moines, IA)
1. Scale up existing Intern Wichita Falls programming
- Through the Wichita Falls Talent Partnership, continue strong collaboration between the Chamber, MSU’s Career Management Center, Vernon College, Wayland Baptist University, WFISD, and the business community
- Utilize the Intern Wichita Falls brand and continue to carry out promotional campaigns targeting employers and prospective internship participants
- Ensure that promotion and outreach efforts are inclusive; engage a diverse set of volunteers with strong network connections and trust to raise awareness organically within specific communities
- Work with partners to establish updated baseline and “stretch” goals for internship participation
2. Create programming to connect summer interns to the Wichita Falls community
- Work with the Talent Partnership, The Circuit, and other partners to design and implement new programs to help summer interns discover why Wichita Falls is a great place to live and work
- Potential programming could include networking events such as lunch and learns with local business leaders, social events that highlight local food, drink, and amenities, and volunteer opportunities to help deepen community connections
- Help promote program engagement by offering free food and a resume credential (e.g., “Intern Wichita Falls Graduate”) for interns who complete the program
- Seek corporate sponsorships to help cover program costs
3. Engage The Circuit young professionals group to support activities
- Work with The Circuit to create and implement quarterly “YP-led” events for interns such as lunch-and-learns or group activities
- In collaboration with employers, promote membership in The Circuit to help interns who have been hired into full-time positions develop networks and adjust to professional life in Wichita Falls
4. Work with ISDs to enhance college, career, and military readiness of PK-12 students in Wichita Falls
- Convene local ISDs, higher education partners, and the business community to begin discussions about how the community can support PK-12 schools in boosting the percentage of graduates that the Texas Education Agency considers to be college, career, and military ready
5. Promote “pathways” to career-track opportunities in manufacturing and the trades to PK-12 students
- With employers, WFISD, Vernon College, and other partners, connect students who are unsure about college to apprenticeships and career-track positions in field such as advanced manufacturing
- Develop inclusive outreach techniques to promote opportunities to students, parents, and PK-12 faculty and staff; could include interactive career fairs, visits to advanced manufacturing facilities, etc.
- Work with employers to offer “signing bonuses” or similar incentives to recent high school graduates who enter a career-track job and complete a minimum period of service
6. Create a youth leadership program for high school students in Wichita Falls
- With the Talent Partnership, PK-12 and higher education partners, The Circuit, and the business community, create a youth leadership program for high school students in Wichita Falls
- Develop programming to help high school students enhance their academic, social, and life skills and interact with local community leaders, including young professionals from The Circuit who grew up in Wichita Falls
- Work with local schools to enroll classes of students that reflect the racial and ethnic, cultural, geographical, and socioeconomic diversity of Wichita Falls
- Seek corporate and philanthropic gifts to ensure that program tuition is free