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UH researchers delve into the essentials of a qualified workforce for Texas

09/26/2017 | By Claire Andersen

While the University of Houston blazes forward in athletics, research and student body population growth, academic departments prove that they can keep up and even exceed that pace. The Hobby School of Public Policy, just over a year old, is already making its mark not only on state policy but also on the growth and success of the Texas workforce.

One of Hobby's ongoing studies is dedicated to the analysis of what researchers are referring to as the social mobility of Texas residents. Researchers considered the economic, social and health development of Texas residents at various life-cycle stages from early childhood through adulthood. A close examination of the individuals' development in each category allows researchers to determine how resilient citizens prove to be personally as well as how they impact the growth of their community as a whole.

This report is a response to the 60x30TX education plan published by the Texas Higher Education Coordination Board in 2015, which set a goal for 60 percent of Texans between 24 to 35 years of age to hold a certificate or higher degree by 2030. The geographical and spatial research tools that Hobby uses provide insight on Texas counties meeting targets with this goal and those that are falling behind.

"We're hoping that with all the things we find out that it can assist the state to target monies and resources and reform these areas that are underperforming," said Granato, executive director of the Hobby School. "What's interesting is that some counties within large (problematic) swatches are doing well. So, what is it about those counties? They have the same social status, same culture, same everything. Why are they doing better?"

Researchers obtained and analyzed census and education community data in search of answers to these questions. With this information available, public policy makers, educators and employers can focus on preparing a qualified and informed generation to join the workforce.

Hobby researchers continue to pursue their endeavors with proposals for extending their research and seeking local and national partners to prepare the future workforce. As their work continues, Granato is determined that their results have the capability to predict and affect the future of the nation’s workforce.

"We've got a population in Texas and in Houston in particular that is leading what is happening in the rest of the country with diversity in the population and in age," said Granato. "Other researchers have been exploring these trends and we agree on the task ahead.  We have all these young people that are rising up and the size of that population is larger than it is in most other states. The challenge then is to ensure robust educational training to serve our young population and our state’s continued development. "