DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – It was called “Amazon U,” a proposal to lure Amazon’s HQ2 to Dallas and bring together some local universities and Dallas ISD to develop a pipeline of homegrown high tech workers.
While Amazon isn’t locating its second headquarters here, the Dallas County Community College District is pursuing the idea anyway.
On Saturday, voters approved a $1.1 billion bond package for DCCCD that will not only include money for the programs to create a high tech workforce, but also a new El Centro College campus in downtown Dallas.
When Amazon announced it wasn’t building its HQ2 in Dallas, some educators and businesses say it exposed one of this area’s shortcomings: despite a growing high tech workforce, there still aren’t enough of these employees.
Dr. Joe May, Chancellor of the Dallas County Community College District said, “We know there are right now there are many vacant jobs in North Texas that we simply don’t have the workforce to fill those jobs, and that was one of the big challenges looking to come here was that when they did the math, they really couldn’t see how we were going to be able to meet those needs.”
To keep this from happening again, May said they’re planning to create a pipeline of homegrown talent — not just of employees who work in advanced manufacturing and IT, but in nursing, dentistry, food and hospitality, and business and finance, all sectors experiencing shortages of talent.
May said the district needs to build a new campus for El Centro College because it has outgrown its space for its eleven thousand students.
As part of its new campus, the district is talking with Dallas ISD, UNT-Dallas, Texas Women’s University and Texas A&M-Commerce to create the new programs designed for students from a young age through college.
May said the college district is looking at various locations downtown, including the old Dallas Morning News building, an area around the old Dallas High School, an area south of City Hall and Victory Park. “Part of our concept was to really create a downtown, higher education center, but even more than education center, with innovation hub.”
Drexell Owusu, Sr. VP, Education & Workforce, at the Dallas Regional Chamber said, “We’re incredibly excited about the prospects that DCCCD has for its new downtown campus. We came up with this idea around the concept for working with Amazon but the reality is we needed to be doing this work anyway.”
He said the college district’s plan will attract companies by giving them an opportunity to shape these programs from the start. “I think there’s a unique opportunity and this is a good example of it to really drive new innovation around how we create talent in the region.”
May said collectively, this could amount to a nearly $2 billion investment in education in Dallas.
“Education is so important today to employers that we really need to make this an investment so that we can really meet those needs,” May said.