Despite its largely positive economic climate, Texas’s Lower Rio Grande Valley has long faced daunting workforce development challenges. Nearly one-half of the region’s working-age population does not have a high school diploma and only 1 in 8 have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Employers face numerous additional challenges, including limited worker experience, a lack of technical and managerial skills, and language barriers. Federal funding for workforce training continues to decline even as employers demand workers with higher skill levels.
In response, Workforce Solutions engaged TIP Strategies to analyze and identify industry clusters with the greatest potential for enhancing the regional economy. As a first step, TIP assessed the region from an economic development perspective. Next, industry clusters were selected based on quantitative, qualitative, and strategic data. The resulting industry clusters were translated into occupations and skill sets and evaluated using a weighted matrix of selection criteria that included wage rates and overlap among industry clusters. This analysis resulted in a list of demand occupations which was adopted by the leadership and staff of Workforce Solutions. The sector task forces, created as part of the work, continue to be used as feedback forums for addressing workforce-related challenges and opportunities. A new “workforce intelligence” system was developed to better meet the needs of regional businesses and economic development organizations. The cluster analysis was also recognized by the state of Texas as representing cutting edge work.