Maintaining Fort Worth’s status as the fastest-growing city in the nation depends on high school and middle school students, according to top Tarrant County business leaders.
“We have to find new ways to source our workforce more than ever before, and that effort has to start with our local schools and higher education in all of Fort Worth and Tarrant County,” said Tom Harris, a Hillwood executive who chairs Mayor Mattie Parker’s Council on Education and Workforce Development.
The Tarrant To & Through Partnership announced a new app that would do what Harris described. The platform, called T3 Pathways to Careers, shows students the steps they need to take while in high school to find a career in Tarrant County. Fort Worth civic, business and education leaders celebrated the creation of the online resource during an Oct. 18 event at Tarrant County College’s Trinity River campus.
The T3 Partnership is an organization that supports students through college and career advising, scholarships and mentorships to help them earn a degree or credential and enter the workforce.
The Pathways to Careers platform helps students align their skills and interests with more than 60 programs of study and learn how to earn industry-level certifications and degrees, T3 Executive Director Natalie Young-Williams said.
JP Morgan Chase awarded a $750,000 grant to T3 to expand the platform and have it available in Spanish.
“The Mayor’s Council, along with the new T3 workforce pipeline platform, will allow our community to scale the effort in aligning our public school students’ pathways in many of our school districts with industry needs going forward,” Harris said. “Together, we are expanding economic opportunities for students, businesses and the greater Tarrant County community.”
T3 has helped more than 2,300 students find their own path toward a successful post-high school life, according to officials. About 8 in 10 T3 scholars who graduate from an early college high school go on to pursue higher education.
“I feel like a proud mom, but I didn’t have to go through labor, which is really wonderful,” Parker said jokingly of T3’s progress since its start in 2020.
Fort Worth resident Diana Flores is one of those students. College was a big question mark for her when she attended schools in Fort Worth ISD. No one in her family had attended college, but she knew she wanted to be a teacher, she said.
Now, she’s a semester away from earning her associate degree in education from TCC.
“As a first-generation college student, I didn’t know what was going on. T3 was the introduction to what I can be, and they were pushing me and telling me that I can do anything that I can put my mind to,” Flores said.
The community college is at the center of connecting students to careers and plays a key role in T3’s efforts, TCC Chancellor Elva LeBlanc said.
“T3 is laying the groundwork for a sustainable, locally grown pipeline of qualified, motivated talent to fill in-demand jobs in our region,” LeBlanc said. “By working together, we can better inform the curriculum offered to our students, open the doors to new career opportunities.”
The only way to fill talent gaps in the Fort Worth area is to go “downstream” to K-12 schools, starting in middle school, to build up the workforce the region needs, Hillwood President Mike Berry said.
“We’re not only helping design a platform for what we need for the future, but we’re getting kids excited about the multitude of career opportunities that are out there today,” Berry said.
History of the Tarrant To & Through Partnership
The Tarrant To & Through Partnership started in 2020 just as the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world. Mattie Parker had just left her job as chief of staff for then-Mayor Betsy Price to found T3.
“Little did we know the world was going to fall apart, so we had to take our fundraising roadshow to Zoom,” Parker said.
Parker left her position as T3’s founding CEO in early 2021 to run for mayor.
The idea for T3 came after a group of Fort Worth leaders toured the nation to see how other communities were approaching education and economic opportunity for students.
In 2022, Young-Williams was appointed as T3’s executive director.
T3 works with juniors and seniors in the Crowley, Fort Worth and Castleberry school districts. Juniors and seniors at Lamar High School in Arlington ISD also are eligible for the program.
T3 also works with several colleges and universities, including Tarrant County College, Tarleton State University, Texas Christian University, Texas Wesleyan University, Texas Woman’s University, The University of Texas at Arlington, the University of North Texas and the University of North Texas at Dallas.
Disclosure: Hillwood has been a financial supporter of the Fort Worth Report. News decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.