County’s job growth prompts LHISD, City to create industry advisory board


By Rachel Madison

Job growth is going to be a hot topic across several different sectors in Liberty Hill this year.

Representatives from the City of Liberty Hill, the Liberty Hill Independent School District and the Workforce Solutions Rural Capital Area recently joined together to discuss the implementation of an industry advisory board in Liberty Hill as a way to make sure students who will soon be entering the workforce have the skills employers are seeking.

Creation of this board comes on the heels of a recent announcement from Williamson County that it has tied for the second largest percent increase in employment in the United States with a 3.9 percent gain from June 2018 to June 2019.

In comparison, the largest increase in employment was Adams County, Colo., with a gain of 5.3 percent. Williamson County tied for second with Richmond County, NY, and Utah County, Utah, according to a Williamson County press release.

Paul Fletcher, CEO of Workforce Solutions Rural Capital Area, said it’s exciting to be in one of the fastest growing areas of the state and country when it comes to jobs.

“There are hundreds of opportunities for people who want to live here and move here and become part of that growth,” he said. “Our job is to make sure there’s a pipeline of skilled workers. We have five specific areas we focus on: IT, healthcare, advanced manufacturing, skill trades, and retail and hospitality.”
Williamson County’s yearly employment growth has ranged from 2.9 to 4.7 percent over the past five years. Industries that have had the largest increase overall are education and health services, leisure and hospitality, and construction, according to the press release.

Cara DiMattina Ryan, chief strategy officer for Workforce Solutions Rural Capital Area, said the growth in Williamson County is centered around a few key areas. First, Williamson County is attracting the attention of advanced manufacturers and IT centered companies that are going to promote the growth of careers that support those areas, she said.

“Because of the affordability and quality of life in Liberty Hill and other parts of Williamson County, we’re also seeing population growth at a rapid rate,” she added. “That growth lends itself to the development of people-centered career opportunities, such as construction-related skilled trades, health care workers, teachers and retail-related opportunities. We have really great partners in Liberty Hill that are already focused on developing the workforce for these high-growth industries that will have an impact on the region.”

Lance Dean, executive director of Liberty Hill’s Economic Development Corporation, said the industry advisory board is still in its infancy.

“We’re really just kind of getting it started,” he said. “Cara, Megan Riggins with the CTE program at Liberty Hill High School, and myself met for the first time right before Christmas and talked about what we wanted to do.”

Dean said market research from Workforce Solutions Rural Capital Area showing top positions in the county and highest employer needs will come into play as the board is formed. Riggins will be looking at what LHISD schools are offering when it comes to certifications and what needs to be changed or added, Dean said, while he will be working with local businesses to learn what skills they need employees to have.

“The next step is looking for people who are interested in participating on the board,” Dean said. “We’ll try to bring in some local business owners, and Megan is looking into offering some internal surveys at the schools to find out what students are interested in and what skills they want to learn. We don’t know yet when this board will be officially launched, but it will be soon.”

Dean added that as Liberty Hill continues to grow and develop, it’s a natural progression for the school district to create a board like this.

“We want to show students that they don’t need to grow up and move away,” he said. “We want to show them there are opportunities and employers here locally. We want to make a connection between the local business community and the school district so if it is possible to train students for skills that are needed, we can do that. If we can show we have an engaged school district, that shows from an employer standpoint that we can create a workforce by developing programs we need.”

Dean said skills he believes Liberty Hill’s future workers need include social skills and knowledge of manufacturing, distribution, professional services, oil and gas and information technology.

“With all the growth going on in Liberty Hill in general, we need to be proactive in helping to develop the workforce of tomorrow,” Dean said. “That will help in recruiting businesses to the area.”

Ultimately, Fletcher said it’s an exciting time to be in the job market and in the talent pipeline in Williamson County.

“There are abundant opportunities and a lot of different things that can be done,” he said. “It’s a good time to be looking for a job and trying to figure out what you want to do for a career.”