Community colleges have long been tasked with developing their region’s workforce. Yet employers often bemoan that they can’t find workers with the knowledge and abilities they need, and several industries have yawning skills gaps. 

That’s why earlier this year, Education Dive planned to visit a handful of community colleges in Texas that were either making big strides in preparing their students for in-demand jobs or taking on projects to revitalize their communities. We made it to only one of the colleges before the pandemic cut our trip short, but we were able to speak with representatives of the other schools by phone and email.

In many ways, Texas offers a microcosm view of larger trends playing out across U.S. community colleges. Several of the state’s institutions must adapt to the growing need for workers in fields such as healthcare and professional services, all while improving their student outcomes. 

The coronavirus crisis is sharpening the focus on these priorities. The pandemic has left millions of U.S. workers without jobs and potentially scarred the economy for years to come. 

Community colleges in Texas and elsewhere will play a large role in the recovery, with short-term measures to get people back to work and long-term projects to train a vibrant workforce. These stories show how several institutions laid the groundwork before the pandemic to prepare their students for an evolving job market.

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