Dave Moore, Staff Writer
Over the past five years, Dallas College has trained thousands of workers in skills as diverse as phlebotomy and truck driving. And college leadership says its job training efforts are on the verge of expanding to the national level.
Five Southern Dallas County companies are taking part in job training through Dallas College’s state-funded Skills Development Fund: Belmar Integrated Logistics, Chick-Fil-A, FFE Transportation Services, Menchies, and Williams Chicken.
“It’s really a change to how our human resource department handles new individuals,” said FFE Transportation Services Vice President of Sales Travis McCain. “We’re not necessarily having to go out and recruit someone with the vast amount of experience. You know you can find individuals who truly want to work, and they’re dedicated people.”
FFE Transportation has a major hub in Lancaster in Southern Dallas County, and for the last seven years, has worked with Dallas College at Cedar Valley to train its truckers and, most recently, its management team.
According to McCain, FFE started working with Dallas College to train its truck drivers. When that program succeeded, FFE started training its workforce for the management track.
“We recognized (the training) was highly impactful because of a drop in turnover,” he said. “Then, we said, why don’t we roll this out to everybody else?”
Dallas College’s management track training includes soft skills, such as guidance on communicating with drivers who spend entire days in their truck cabs, with limited in-person interaction.
Dallas College upskills drivers through classroom and on-the-road training. McCain said the reduction in turnover has improved FFE’s operational efficiency and further reduced HR nuisances.
“There’s a tremendous upside all the way around,” he said. “Because there’s obviously a sensational cost in having to replace an employee, be it at the customer service level, a planner, or even a driver.”
Since 2015, about 4,800 drivers have completed the Dallas College/FFE Transportation driving course. That doesn’t include the hundreds who have also completed the FFE/Dallas College management training.
According to the Texas Workforce Commission, the state’s Skills Development Fund
has been used by almost 5,000 employers since its inception in 1996. More than 411,000 jobs have been created through the fund, the commission reports.
Since Dallas College has received a $10 million U.S. Department of Labor grant to train workers in information technology, advanced manufacturing, and transportation-related skills, the training program can go nationwide, said LaKesha Raynor, Dallas College’s Director of Workforce Development and Apprenticeships Relationship Management.
Raynor is the sparkplug largely driving the employment-fueled training program at Dallas College.
She said employers in other sectors who have upskilled workers through Dallas County have reported similar instances of increased employee job satisfaction and retention.
According to Raynor, Dallas College’s Workforce and Advancement Division helped secure the funding — referred to as an Innovative Strategies One Workforce (ISOW) grant — which is expected to pay for the training of about 4,000 individuals for well-paying, in-demand careers until 2025.
“The initial (career training funding) was Texas-based,” Raynor said. “This (ISOW) grant allows us to not only focus on local and state employer partners, but national partners as well. It’s our intention to use it to scale our national apprenticeships. Partners like FFE can help us do that because we have already partnered with them to start a statewide apprenticeship.”
How to apply for Texas Skills Development Fund
Any Texas private business, business consortium, or trade union is eligible to apply for a grant through the Texas Skills Development Fund. Grants for a single business may be limited to $500,000.
To be considered, an employer must:
- Partner with an eligible grant applicant, which is a public community or technical college, the Texas Engineering Extension Service, or a private, nonprofit community-based organization in partnership with one of those institutions
- Be actively involved in the planning and design of the customized training project
- Pay wages to the employees who complete the training program that are equal to or greater than the prevailing wage for the occupation in the local labor market
- Disclose any other state or federal grant funds awarded for the proposed training project
- Sign an agreement with the grant applicant outlining each entity’s roles and responsibilities in the training project, including reporting requirements related to trainee participation
- Provide equal employment opportunity documentation as well as information on the occupations for training, employment benefits, wages and social security numbers for trainees
- Use WorkInTexas.com to post openings for new workers trained under the project
Collaboration between businesses, workforce development boards, and economic development and training partners is required. Funding criteria include:
- Positive economic impact on local region
- Applicant’s current and past performance with Skills Development Fund grants
- Equitable geographic distribution of funds
- Inclusion of small- and medium-sized businesses
- Fiscal stability of business partners
- Cost per trainee in comparison to state average