Odessa Development Corporation’s Workforce Summit: Connecting the Dots Recap

Odessa Development Corporation’s Workforce Summit: Connecting the Dots Recap Main Photo

17 Mar 2024

Economic growth in Odessa, Texas, is flourishing, presenting both opportunities and challenges for the community. While growth is positive, it can strain vital resources such as continuing education, affordable childcare and housing availability.

The Odessa Development Corporation recently hosted its first Workforce Summit in January 2024, and it was a resounding success. Expert panelists convened to share experiences, challenges and solutions for addressing workforce gaps in Odessa’s rapidly expanding business landscape.

With Odessa emerging as a premier business destination, having a robust workforce is imperative. The summit focused on three key areas: continuing education, childcare accessibility and affordability, and housing availability. Several potential solutions were discussed during breakout roundtables.

Continuing Education Solutions

The panelist’s insights about continuing education and workforce development laid out some potential tactics to meet the growing workforce needs.

Specific programs that target particular industries and age groups developed in collaboration with local businesses to address specific skill gaps in sectors such as healthcare, technology and energy can help with growing the workforce in these industries. These potential programs should prioritize hands-on experience and certifications that local employers will recognize.

One such program is the accelerated Family Medicine Program at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC). The program will focus on recruiting local students from across West Texas with the goal of retaining them to serve all of West Texas.

“We are deeply committed to advancing primary care at TTUHSC. This dedication led us to pioneer the nation’s first accelerated Family Medicine program, which remains one of our signature offerings. Our goal is to increase the number of medical students choosing a career in family medicine — especially in underserved areas — providing our invaluable, patient-centered care to those who need it most,” said Dr. Timothy Benton, dean.

Odessa’s educational institutions all spoke about growing their programs to reach and retain top-tier talent in Odessa.

Representatives from Odessa College, the University of Texas of the Permian Basin and the Ector County Independent School District spoke about their willingness to work with the business community to provide training, educational opportunities, apprenticeships and more.

They each encouraged local businesses to reach out with specific training needs. Businesses in Odessa have firsthand experience and insight into what skills are needed for their employees to be successful. With new industry partnerships curriculum can be created or updated quickly so that training is cutting-edge and relevant for students.

Potential Childcare Solutions

Affordable and accessible childcare is increasingly crucial for working families, with the average cost of childcare in Texas ranging from $7,500 - $9,000 a year for one child. It could be close to $15,000 - $18,000 a year for a family of four.

One potential solution from the Workforce Summit was developing a sliding scale fee structure for childcare services based on income levels to increase the accessibility of childcare. By finding ways to reduce the cost of childcare, a business could attract a larger number of workers and help fill the gaps in their company.

A second was having partnerships with local businesses to provide on-site childcare options, making it more convenient for working parents.

A third suggestion was reframing childcare as an essential job and providing workers with benefits and opportunities for growth. Providing childcare providers with ongoing training and professional development opportunities can enhance their skills in early childhood education, behavior management, and safety protocols. These incentives can be provided for providers to pursue higher education in early childhood development, further improving the quality of childcare services.

Workforce Solutions Permian Basin CEO Willie Taylor reminded attendees that the organization can provide childcare assistance.

“Permian Basin Workforce Board offers financial assistance for child care services to low-income families throughout the 17 counties of the Permian Basin. The goal of the child care program is to help families who meet income level requirements to become self-sufficient by providing child care services while they go to work or school.”

Housing Solutions

As inventory levels remain low and the cost of buying a home increases, finding attainable homes for working families in Odessa can be a challenge. While the average home price in Odessa, Texas, is 24% lower than the national average, increasing supply and access for workers can help drive greater economic growth and reduce workforce turnover rates.

While mixed-use developments are attractive for developers, a common theme from the workforce summit was focusing on home building and less on apartments. Part of the American Dream has always been owning a home; people see this purchase as a significant milestone. With an increased supply of attainable houses, you can have a more permanent resident base that also helps increase the number and availability of workers in Odessa.  

Local real estate builders discussed future growth plans for housing developments in Odessa.

Odessa Development Corporation Pioneering Solutions for the Business Community

The Odessa Development Corporation and community stakeholders are actively seeking solutions to improve opportunities for workers and businesses. By addressing these challenges head-on, Odessa lays a solid foundation for sustainable growth and prosperity.

The Odessa Development Corporation (ODC) dedicates itself to driving Odessa's economic growth and supporting local businesses through job creation grants, capital investment incentives, and other valuable services. We prioritize creating new jobs, expanding the tax base, promoting business activity, diversifying the economy, and fostering a skilled workforce. Contact us today to learn more about how the ODC can assist you.