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You hear it being discussed everywhere. It is a local, state, and national dilemma. What are we talking about? Workforce, of course! Industry executives will take any chance they get to tell you that one of the biggest battles industry faces is finding qualified skilled workers to fill jobs.

The Greater Conroe Economic Development Council (GCEDC) is leading the charge in filling workforce needs. With an already low unemployment rate of 3.7% in Conroe, the goal is to put even more people to work by training workers for job needs and matching qualified workers with specific job openings. The GCEDC, with help from the Greater Conroe/Lake Conroe Area Chamber, Workforce Solutions and Lone Star College- Conroe Center, is doing that through the annual job fair, scholarships and training programs.

The third annual job fair on January 27, 2015 attracted more than 500 job seekers to visit with nearly 50 participating businesses and groups. “We have a lot of skilled workers in [the Greater Conroe region] with a wide variety of skills. The area is growing like crazy and we have a great environment in Conroe,” Jennifer Matthews, Associate Director of the Greater Conroe Economic Development Council, told the Conroe Courier.

The word is getting out about Conroe’s diversely skilled workers. The 50 job fair booths in 2015 was an increase from 31 in 2014 and 20 in 2013. You can expect that number to continue to grow in 2016 and beyond due to planned business growth in Conroe. That growth, however, will challenge the available workforce in the area. Fortunately for companies looking for skilled workers, the GCEDC job fair provided scholarships to Lone Star College- Conroe Center which is producing potential quality employees to meet industry growth.

Lone Star College- Conroe Center is a comprehensive educational campus located in the middle of Conroe Park North, offering career programs in areas such as machining, welding, automotive technology, phlebotomy, and certified nursing aide. Lone Star College- Conroe Center Dean Becky Ramirez fully understands the role the center, which opened in 2011, plays in producing qualified workers.

“I get weekly calls from area businesses saying that they need skilled workers. We are offering continuous welding and machining classes from 7:30 a.m.-10:00 p.m. to train as many people as possible. Even still, we have a waiting list for our machining classes,” said Ramirez.

Ramirez believes the work LSC-Conroe Center has done with the high schools is critical in shortening the skills gap. “Conroe Center is leading the Lone Star System in workforce dual credit enrollment with our local high schools. We want high school, and even junior high, students to know that these are excellent programs leading to great careers.”

In a time when oil prices suffered, LSC-Conroe Center did not. Ramirez attributes that to the work of the GCEDC and others in diversifying the business climate in Conroe. “Our enrollment was not affected by the drop in oil prices. With our location in Conroe Park North and the varied types of businesses the Greater Conroe Economic Development Council has recruited there, we have kept producing skilled workers at a nearly 100% job placement rate.”

In Conroe, the GCEDC, the college, and industry are doing more than talking about workforce. They are solving the skills gap shortage through training and job fairs to attract qualified employees. With an already robust workforce continuing to grow and diversify, it is clear that Conroe has the workforce ready to do business.