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Building a Better Workforce Pipeline

As one of the five key pillars of the Greater San Marcos Partnership's strategic five year plan, Vision 2020, optimizing the local talent base is under the microscope. The region is working to boost performance in its pre-k to 12 systems, raise the degree-attainment levels of working age adults, and better align education and training with regional job creation to more effectively compete for knowledge-intensive industries. In a small series, GSMP's Director of Business Retention and Expansion & Workforce Development, Cara Ryan, dives into how our region's current and future companies and public entities can make this possible. 

First, she takes a look into the case studies of industry and community college partnerships including Toyota's relationship with Bluegrass Community College. She then highlights how regional development and characteristics shape educational policies and institutions. 


Many of the Greater San Marcos regional stakeholders recently went on an Inter-City Visit to Greenville, South Carolina to learn more about the successful private-public partnerships that have developed in the region. The partnership between BMW, Clemson University, and the state of South Carolina is a leading example of the potential outcomes that can be achieved when businesses, educational institutions, and regional government work together. Together, they have established a workforce pipeline, a cluster of service providers unique to the needs of the auto industry, and an enviable research and development center with the university. 

Defining the Workforce Pipeline 

The dream for any company is to have a backlog in their workforce pipeline. When a position opens within your organization, the pipeline would instantly provide a pool of qualified candidates prepared to step in and fill the void. Unfortunately, high attrition rates, low unemployment rates, and a workforce that lacks the skills you need raise the costs to run your operations. Public-private partnerships can mitiage these issues. 

Public-private partnerships are not a new concept. As an example, the Automotive Manufacturing Technical Education Collaborative (AMTEC) model was designed to support automakers in training their manufacturing workforce. The design of their programming was to make every worker in their facilities, including their technical workers, into knoweledgable workers with a range of technical and creative problem-solving skills. One of the most advanced versions of this program exists in Georgetown, Kentucky between Toyota and Bluegrass Community College

"The AMT Program in Kentucky is a partnership between Toyota Motor Manufacturing and Bluegrass Community and Technical College. Students finish with an associate's degree but they never have to set foot on the bluegrass campus. All of their classes are held at Toyota's manufacturing plant in Georgetown, Kentucky. Almost all of the students who compete in the program end up with a job."

What can employers in the San Marcos region do to improve the pipeline of workers into their own facilities?

The needs of BMW & Toyota are not necessarily the needs of our regional manufacturers. The scope and size of the facilities in Georgetown, Kentucky and Greenville, South Carolina are large. Hundreds of employees are needed to operate highly-technical robotic machinery to produce large quantities of products that are shipped across the world. To be successful in acheiving a public-private partnership only requires that we build them related to the scale and nature of the businesses in our region. 

The quiet, tightly-held secret to each of these programs is that they all started with a converstaion with their local educational institutions. Over a long period of time, very small, incremental steps were taken to create these unique programs. Take a look at the timeline of Toyota's program with Bluegrass Community College. 

  • Mid 1980's - Toyota executives had discussions with Bluegrass Community College and toured the facilities; over time, they asked Bluegrass to offer some programming that was unique to their needs. 
  • 2005 - Toyota participated in discussions with AMTEC about programming unique to manufacturers.
  • 2013 - Funding from the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College Career Training (TACCCT) Initiative allowed them to increase the size/structure for their existing program, enhancing their partnership. 
  • 2017 - Bluegrass introduced an additional campus on state property for training with the support of the state. 

Taking the first step to achieving the public-private partnership that will work best for you is identifying the educational institution that can best provide you to access to the training that you need and starting the conversation. 

Public-private partnerships between businesses and educational institutions can come in many forms:

  • Industry Advisory Boards
  • Targeted hiring agreements
  • Community college and industry partnerships
  • Training programs
  • university and industry transfer agreements
  • Entrepreneurship programs
  • And more

They can be as highly integrated, where the school and company share resources (i.e. Toyota's partnership with Bluegrass) or as minimally integrated (i.e. consulting on your highschools CTE Director's Industry Advisory Board), as you prefer. 


Cara recently earned her doctorate in Educational Leadership, Evaluation, and Organizational Development and specializes in issues related to workforce development. Her past research included the mentioned case studies of industry and community college partnerships. In addition, she has focused on how regional development and characteristics shape educational policy and institutions. 

If you are considering changes to the makeup of your workforce or would like more information about educational incentives taking place in Hays and Caldwell Counties, please contact her at carar@greatersanmarcostx.com

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