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Success in workplace might start at home


Here’s a lingering, local workforce challenge that surely wasn’t news to the 346 participants at Golden Triangle Days in Austin last week: We in the Beaumont-Port Arthur Metropolitan Statistical Area lack the skilled workers we need to fill an abundance of good job opportunities.

The jobless rate here is about 5.8 percent, Mariana Vega, Texas Workforce Commission director of labor market and career information, said, but it’s been worse. The high was 11.7 percent in 2010. That was back in the Deepwater Horizon era, when Gulf of Mexico drilling shut down.

Those who made the biennial trek from the Golden Triangle — Port Arthur, Orange and Beaumont — last week to lobby the Texas legislature in session must have been well aware of the lack of workforce skills here. After all, the local contingent included people who do a lot of the hiring in this region. There is a skills gap, Vega told Golden Triangle Days visitors. Don’t we know it.

Vega listed for the visitors some of the challenges people here have faced, including a high poverty rate and calamities due to natural disasters, including, most recently, Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey. We have a growing Hispanic population, she said, and Hispanic children struggle for educational attainment, she added.

But despite the challenges, there is, as well, a constant and reliable road to opportunity: accessible public education. Local public schools and local charter schools offer an opportunity for impoverished children to achieve more than their parents did.

Three two-year, post-secondary schools — Lamar State College Port Arthur, Lamar State University Orange and Lamar Institute of Technology — offer willing, diligent students entry to local skilled-workforce jobs. There are many.

Lamar State University offers our local graduates an opportunity to a quality four-year education and more. There is an opportunity to climb out of local poverty and achieve success here.

Moreover, we don’t consider our local population — no matter its demographic composition — to be a challenge or a drawback. Our people present opportunities for advancement for themselves and for our area. But some things must happen. Chances are greater that those things must happen at home than in Austin.

Port Arthur School Superintendent Mark Porterie touched on one major need during a Golden Triangle Days panel discussion on education. Porterie pointed to these participants — local parents — in what should be a relentless march toward Golden Triangle improvements. Parents should take a large role in effecting their children’s success.

They should provide an encouraging, nurturing environment for their children. They should be active participants in their children’s daily attention to schoolwork and achievement. They should sacrifice their own immediate gratification for the long-term success of their families.

Workforce success should start — oftentimes, it must start — with support at home.