The Fort Worth area has nearly 1 million jobs that pay above the living wage of more than $18 an hour — and most of them do not require a bachelor’s degree.

Many of these jobs are open, which ultimately harms Fort Worth’s economic development push to stick out from other major Texas cities, said David Nolet, a managing director at JPMorgan Chase.

“How can we in the business community recruit new business when we can’t fill the jobs we have?” he said at a May 4 panel at Texas Wesleyan University.

The Tarrant To & Through Partnership wants to boost the number of Tarrant County students who earn an associate degree or industry certifications by the time they graduate high school. JP Morgan Chase on May 4 donated $2 million to the organization to help it better track the graduates’ post-high school outcomes and to expand its program to more Tarrant County school districts.

The T3 Partnership, created in 2020, supports students through college and career advising, scholarships and mentorships to help them earn a degree or credential and enter the workforce. This process is often referred to as a career pathway.

Currently, the organization works only with Fort Worth ISD, where one out of 10 students earn an industry certification and about 4% of graduates earn an associate degree. Nearly nine out of 10 students in Fort Worth ISD come from families who qualify for the National School Lunch and Child Nutrition Program. 

T3 Partnership officials said JPMorgan Chase’s donation is the largest it has received. 

Nolet described his company’s contribution as a way to help level the playing field and give more students a fair shot at earning credentials beyond a high school diploma.

In Tarrant County, 39% of adults have an associate degree or higher, according to the T3 Partnership. The organization wants to nearly double that number by 2030 to hit 60%, a statewide goal. About 65% of jobs in Tarrant County require some sort of postsecondary credential, according to data from the T3 Partnership.

Natalie Young Williams, executive director of the T3 Partnership, said Tarrant County families often don’t know about the different career pathways their students can take. She described this as a communication and information gap. 

Jeremy Smith, president of the Rainwater Charitable Foundation, said telling students only about a traditional, four-year degree is a disservice to them and the region. He emphasized that the traditional path is great, but isn’t enough for all students and doesn’t always get them into a job.

“We have all kinds of jobs open in this community. All sorts of pathways. We need a holistic focus to help students get to where they want to go,” Smith said.

Smith described showing students all of their options for careers is a no brainer, one that can benefit all residents. A talented workforce, he said, will lure more jobs.

“We all win when we invest in homegrown talent,” Smith said. “The pie grows bigger for all of us.”

Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise journalist for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at jacob.sanchez@fortworthreport.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Jacob SanchezEnterprise Reporter

Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise reporter for the Fort Worth Report. His work has appeared in the Temple Daily Telegram, The Texas Tribune and the Texas Observer. He is a graduate of St. Edward’s University....