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Burleson, Texas, Responds to Skills Gap With Signing Day Event

July 30, 2018 by Cara Christopher

When Burleson, Texas, resident Dylan Cobb graduated from high school in 2015, he had no idea what he wanted to do. Should he go into welding, engineering, or mechanics? Something else?

It’s a common problem faced by high school graduates—and college graduates—all over the country. Even those already in the workforce, like Joel Rankin, ask themselves the same daunting questions.

“What do I want to do?”

“What training do I need to get there?”

“How can I break into the job market?”

These very questions inspired economic development manager Alex Phillips to help create Burleson Works, a game-changing workforce development program for the City of Burleson. The goal? Connecting students, schools, and businesses to address the skills gap in Burleson.


Featuring two of the five Burleson Works 2018 Scholarship Recipients:

Dylan Cobb, a 2015 graduate of Centennial High School will be attending classes at Tarrant County College in pursuit of working for Hayes & Stolz as an engineering drafter.
 Joel Rankin, a 1992 graduate and father, will be attending Hill College to obtain an associate degree in welding. Afterward, he will have the opportunity to join Hayes & Stolz as a welder.

Find Local, Hire Local

The City of Burleson understood the difficult path many of its residents were facing with education and jobs in the community. At the same time, the city was also hearing from businesses about difficulties in finding talent.

So the city, local businesses, educators, and workforce development professionals met to address the supply and demand gap between their workforce and businesses. From this meeting, Burleson Works was born.

The idea was simple, and the framework is genius:

  1. Match people with jobs that local companies need filled.
  2. Offer scholarships for residents to get trained on these jobs before being hired.

Signing Day Success

Once Burleson Works identified business gaps and established education partners, Phillips said they needed to get in front of the workforce. They wanted to make an event that showcased the local businesses and educators, but also identified people in the community who were interested in jobs. To promote the initiative, Burleson Works set up a scholarship fund to attract people to positions that would open in six months to one year. The scholarships gain interest and applications, and put money behind needed trainings.

The event featured a “signing day” similar to college football recruitment, with jumbo checks, media, and handshakes to celebrate the connection between jobseeker and employer. Burleson Works bridged the gap between jobseekers and businesses by reducing the unknown that each was facing.

Alex Phillips

Completing its second year, the Burleson Works program has been a huge success in getting the local workforce aligned with business and education. Apart from the scholarship recipients, the businesses are seeing more applicants and getting their names out in the community. The technical schools are able to showcase direct paths from education to career. And residents are beginning to see that the community cares about providing them with training and jobs so they can live and work in the area they call home.

“This program not only positively affects the person getting the scholarship and job, it affects their family, local businesses, and the overall prosperity of our community,” Phillips said.

Steps to Improve the Skills Gap

Burleson Works was created to provide an avenue for companies, educators, and residents to connect and fill the skill gap in the local area.

Philips encourages other communities to take part in similar programs.

“Things are easier at a community level where you can collaborate and begin to make a difference in people’s lives.” Alex Phillips, Economic Development Manager, City of Burleson

Phillips identified the following tips that helped this program go from idea to success:

  • Have regular meetings with local businesses, educators, and key stakeholders to determine needs and goals.
  • Use data to assess your businesses’ hiring gaps.
  • Spend time meeting and learning from businesses on what they need now and in the future.
  • Strengthen partnerships between businesses, technical schools, and local school districts.
  • Determine which areas need the most help, and prepare to invest (in Burleson’s case, create a scholarship fund that local businesses donate money to).
  • Train jobseekers on what local businesses need.
  • Find creative ways to engage stakeholders, such as community events and signing days.
  • Continually learn and develop.

Our takeaway? Flip the normal education-to-career path, and get in front of potential talent before they start school and training programs. This helps residents find careers, businesses fill positions, and trade-schools provide direct paths.


Not sure where to start? Use Emsi’s new Company Talent Profile to identify hiring needs before you meet with local companies.  Contact Cara Christopher at cara.christopher@economicmodeling.com to get started.


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