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Allen, Texas, Is Investing In Education To Inspire The Next Generation Of Working Texans

Educators from the teacher externship program in Allen, Texas.

As cities across the country struggle to ease their labor struggles and boost their economies, the answer to their problems may lie in local classrooms.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates that out of the nation’s 8.5 million job openings, there are only 6.5 million workers to fill these positions — a sharp decline of about 1.7 million workers since the onset of the pandemic just over four years ago.

However, Workforce Solutions for North Central Texas, an organization that provides workforce development services to help workers find jobs and employers hire skilled workers, is aiming to change this narrative.

The organization has created an educator externship program that prepares the next generation of Texans for the region’s most in-demand occupations, including manufacturing, computer science, healthcare and hospitality. 

“By creating and nurturing connections between companies, educators and students, we will be able to create reciprocal partnerships which will allow for the future of our workforce to be prepared for their lives post-graduation,” said Jan Jungmann, business retention and expansion manager at the Allen Economic Development Corp

Founded in 2022, the externship program is funded through a grant from the Texas Workforce Commission. It enables selected educators to shadow local industry leaders, gaining knowledge about real-world applications of their subject of expertise. 

At the beginning of each calendar year, companies and schools register for the program through Workforce Solutions for North Central Texas. From there, educators are selected by the school’s principals and matched with companies based on their areas of expertise. 

During the summer months, these educators spend 25 hours across five days with their assigned company. They then formulate or adjust their lesson plans for the upcoming school year to meet the needs of a changing corporate environment, Jungmann said.

The ultimate goal is to bring students professional insights from industry experts while providing each company and industry with a pipeline of students ready to enter the workforce upon graduation. 

One city in the region that has seen the impact of this program is Allen, which is about 25 miles north of downtown Dallas. 

“In Allen, the success of this program is due to the champions who promote it,” Jungmann said. 

Workforce Solutions for North Central Texas’ Danielle Davis, Allen ISD’s Catherine Gregory, Allen ISD’s Misty Gallo, WFS’ Phedra Redifer and Allen ISD’s Robin Bullock

Workforce Solutions for North Central Texas is the driving force behind this program, along with the Allen Independent School District and the Allen EDC, she said. Each entity has a vested interest in seeing this program grow and expand, not only in Allen but also in the North Central Texas region. 

“We understand this program to be the bridge that connects education to industry, and that is a win for all involved,” Jungmann said. “This program is important to our community for many reasons, and the most important takeaway is to tell the story that Allen is a great place for business.”

Since its inception two years ago, the program has grown from 16 participating educators in one school district to about 50 educators across three school districts: Allen, Aledo and Denton. This year, 180 educators across 21 school districts will participate in the program, as will 170 companies. 

“When we started, more than 6,000 students were impacted by this program,” Jungmann said. “But this year, we’re anticipating nearly 26,000 students will be impacted. That’s remarkable growth in just two years.”

In addition to students getting the chance to learn about local industries and companies in the classroom, they also get to see what they are learning in action during company tours, Jungmann said. 

One educator from Allen ISD who was matched with All Metals Fabricating, a sheet metal manufacturer, toured the company’s advanced manufacturing facility in Allen with his students. It was an opportunity to showcase real-world applications by making connections between robots in the classroom and million-dollar automated machines at All Metals, Jungmann said.

“The externship program was very valuable to us and to the teacher that we were partnered with because it helped him to gain ideas and insight as to how he can incorporate material in the curriculum that will better prepare the students for the workplace,” said Lance Thrailkill, CEO of All Metals Fabricating. “We also were able to host the students for tours this year, which seemed to be very valuable and enjoyable for the students.”

Lance Thrailkill speaks at a teacher externship event.

Jungmann said many companies in the program have positions that require high school diplomas, special certifications and two-year degrees — not just advanced degrees such as a bachelor’s or a master’s. It is beneficial for the students and the community to see that there are paths to a successful career that don’t involve a traditional office setting or a four-year degree, she said. 

This is particularly true in Allen, where it is estimated that 10% of the city works in healthcare, 15% in scientific and technical services, and 9% in manufacturing. All of these industries and others have work opportunities for those with or without advanced degrees. In addition, as these sectors continue to experience labor shortages nationwide, it is important to show the next generation what career opportunities are sitting in their backyard.

In an effort to expand the program further, on Oct. 9, Allen EDC is partnering with Allen ISD to bring Manufacturing Day to the city. The nationwide event allows participating manufacturing companies to open their facilities to students. On this day, career and technical education students will have the chance to visit eight local manufacturing and engineering companies and meet with leadership. This is a step forward for the externship program in Allen, Jungmann said.  

“At Allen EDC, one of our goals is to bridge the gap between education and industry,” she said. “Allen is a great place to work, live and play, and we want to expose students to all that our city has to offer.”

This article was produced in collaboration between Allen EDC and Studio B. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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