Asking the right questions isn’t just for journalists and writers. Questions are also how we grow. They help us pass our experiences from one person to the next.
“I’m a firm believer that the only difference between me and my customer is my desk,” says Willie Taylor, CEO for Workforce Solutions Permian Basin, known to invite job seekers into his office and whose staff provide work search and related services to people in 17 counties, 15 of which are rural. “It could be me looking for a job, it could be me without transportation, or I could be needing day care to go to work,” Taylor says.
Meanwhile, it’s likely more than a desk that makes the lifelong Odessa resident different from others. In the office by 6 a.m. each morning, Taylor has led the Workforce Board since its certification in 1996. Taylor’s been “in the system” for 46 years, he says, working to bring services to his community since the 1970s, and has learned what is effective for successful workforce development: partnerships and stability.
What is the most important thing you feel you do that contributes to the success of your local Workforce Development Board?
It’s all about building partnerships, especially with local colleges and universities, economic development councils, the chamber. Once you develop those partnerships, it’s easier to get things done in the community: for example, retooling your colleges to provide training in automotive, diesel or trade. We have our targeted occupations list, which we take into the public-school system and work with (guidance) counselors to help students make informed career choices.
Can you tell me something your Board is doing to prepare for current and future workforce demands?
Our board is focused on growing our own workforce, since we have challenges bringing people here. We’re blessed to have three community colleges: Odessa, Midland and Howard College, Texas Tech for medicine, UT Permian Basin for engineering. The cost of living is high, but if workers have a place to live and family here, or they’re going to school here, we can develop our existing workforce rather than relocate workers here.
We’ve been hit hard with a lack of truck drivers, due to the demands of the oil and gas industry. We’re applying for a high demand occupation grant partnering TWC with Midland Development Corporation to train 75-90 more truck drivers in a four-month program that’s got a 90% passing rate.
How did you end up in a career in workforce development?
Even when I was in college, I loved working with people and helping them. After college, I worked in the oil and gas industry, exploration and production, for 2-3 years, then for the Permian Basin Regional Planning Commission. In the mid-1970s I took a summer youth counseling job under the Manpower Development Training Act, and I became the executive director at the planning commission.
What do you do outside of the office?
I love playing golf, and I have an automotive repair shop, where I love working on Chevys and Fords. I [also] volunteer. I’m president of the Medical Center Hospital Family Clinics, which serves about 4,000 people who come to see medical doctors for treatment.
Would you like to share a success story?
In workforce development you touch a lot of lives, and you don’t know how much you impact them until you see them making a living for their families.
In Seminole, Texas, we had a rancher going through a difficult time. I worked with him with our dislocated worker program, which helped farmers and ranchers. I was working with him — and when you think of a farmer you think independent. I got him into training at Midland College’s air conditioning training and started his own business. He’s doing very well now, in business more than 20 years.