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Chamber looks to fix skilled labor shortage

By BY MILTON CHAPMAN
Oct. 19, 2013 at 5:19 a.m.

Milton Chapman

Sometimes, too much of a good thing, unfortunately, turns into being not so good in all aspects, sometimes creating new problems. So it is with Victoria's economy. Our economy is so good that our unemployment rates are very low - so low that now we are developing a serious problem that is endangering Victoria's future growth - a lack of a sufficient skilled workforce.

I would like to discuss how the Victoria Chamber of Commerce is working for its members and this community to help bring solutions to this problem that will help re-engage local businesses and education to a greater level than ever before, all which will result in developing a strong and vibrant skilled workforce and help to "fill the pipeline" for sustainability of that workforce.

Our economy has been bolstered by the Eagle Ford Shale and taking advantage of Victoria being in one of the best locations in the country for future growth - a great business climate here in Texas and close to good transportation routes. New industry wants to locate here. I am proud of this great city's visionary leaders and its economic development community that has facilitated growth and expansions. Now is not the time to allow an undermining of that growth potential. At this critical point in our history, we have to realize that we are going to lose our competitive edge if the businesses can't find sufficient skilled workers to fill their jobs.

The chamber has heard from businesses both large and small and continue to hear its membership's frustrations, expressing how they have difficulty getting the workers they need. The chamber intends to act to help solve this problem. We will make development of a more sufficient skilled workforce an absolute priority now.

The chamber has formed an Education/Human Resources Committee, composed of 15 members from area businesses both large and small and from representatives from Victoria College, VISD and the University of Houston-Victoria to help bring an urgent focus to this problem. Specifically, the chamber is bringing our member businesses and our schools together now to determine what jobs we are having trouble filling, seeking to have our schools focus on training area students for those jobs and institute better ways, with local businesses' full involvement, to communicate and motivate our area students as early as the eighth or ninth grade to train for those jobs. In other words, we need to better "home grow" our own skilled workforce for the long term. Good jobs are here if we can get our local area students to go after them and know that they are available. The key thing about training our own is that they are already here. Victoria is home, and with a good job, they are more likely to stay.

We recently sent a group of our members to Raleigh, N.C., as Raleigh had our same problem about 10 years ago. Their chamber worked to bring their area schools to teach for the jobs that their industry needed to train and retain their local students in Raleigh.

Further, we would like to help develop other options for helping solve this workforce problem, including marketing to workers to move to Victoria. We recognize that this problem is larger than simply our chamber membership and, quite frankly, Victoria; it is impacting our whole South Texas region. Please email Randy Vivian, president and CEO of the Victoria Chamber, at randyvivian@victoriachamber.org with your thoughts and comments. We strongly want and need them. Your input would be of great help to our Education/Human Resources Committee's efforts.

Milton Chapman is chairman of the board of the Victoria Chamber of Commerce. He has practiced law in Victoria since 1990. He has also worked with several community organizations, including serving as president of the Victoria Rotary Club, Victoria Jaycees, Boys and Girls Club of Victoria and chairman of the DeLeon District of Boy Scouts.

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