From the Editor: Work Force of the Future

Building a better Texas, piece by piece.

by / January 1, 2006

Gov. Rick Perry knows what he wants Texas to be -- the epicenter of the U.S. technology industry.

Grooming the state to play that leading role takes time, not only to cultivate the growth of IT industry but also to prepare students for front and center positions.

Together, Perry and the Legislature have set the wheels in motion for Texas' success. First came the Technology Workforce Development Act, created to increase the number of computer science and engineering graduates from Texas universities. The act has awarded 73 grants worth more than $14.2 million to higher-education institutions since its inception four years ago.

The competitively awarded grants fund initiatives to improve outreach, recruitment, retention, mentoring, curricula and internships in the computer science and electrical engineering fields.

Thirty-four university departments have received funding through the program, which is administered by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Between 2001 and 2004, participating departments said the number of computer sciences graduates increased by one-fourth and electrical engineering by one-third, according the 2005 Technology Workforce Development Grant's annual report.

Perhaps more importantly, the report said, growth in electrical engineering graduates over the past four years reverses a decade-long trend in the state.

Perry signed HB 1765 in June 2005, creating the $200 million Texas Emerging Technology Fund (ETF). Perry proposed the ETF in 2004 and made it a priority in his State of the State Address to the Texas Legislature at the beginning of 2005.

Although Texas landed more job-creation projects than any other state in the nation in 2005, Perry said, the fund is crucial for maintaining economic competitiveness. He knows other states are developing new strategies to secure job growth, especially jobs in one of the most important battlegrounds for future prosperity -- the technology industry.

The ETF targets three major investment areas.

It increases research collaboration between public- and private-sector entities to develop new Regional Centers of Innovation and Commercialization to nurture the growth of innovative ideas from university labs to the commercial marketplace.

The fund also matches research grants provided by both federal and private sponsors to help innovators acquire the capital they need to bring ideas to life.

Finally the fund attracts top-notch research teams from other universities around the nation to put Texas universities on the cutting edge of technology research and development.

It's all part of putting out the welcome mat for companies to come to Texas and invest in the state's future.

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