Dallas College has taken a major stride to bring job training to the heart of South Dallas, carving out a new purpose for the former Red Bird Mall by opening a workforce training center that promises to sharpen the skills of the local community for free. The 53,000-square-foot facility, nestled within The Shops at RedBird, is the latest investment in an area of the city with high demand for employment opportunities and was celebrated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday, according to The Dallas Morning News.
The center is strategically placed to offer courses in high-demand job sectors like health care, assisting forklift operations, and customer care, while also providing support in obtaining high school equivalency and improving English language skills as well as financial literacy. It's a multifaceted hub aimed at uplifting those who've been on the margins, edging them closer toward substantial employment. Optimism was echoed through statements by Chancellor Justin Lonon of Dallas College about the commitment to bring "these skill training workforce programs, educational programs right here into the heart of the community at Red Bird", per FOX 4 News.
Gloria Smith, Vice Provost of Workforce Education at Dallas College, the architect behind the center's blueprint, was applauded for her focus on serving non-traditional students — ensuring they have a shot at high-earning careers. Smith said that being "located in the heart of South Dallas, the center will allow us, and our partners, to provide educational opportunities that lead to high-demand jobs for a population that has been historically underserved." This aligns with the findings of a 2021 report by Cicero Group which pinpointed a lack of opportunities for Dallas residents to learn job skills and advance career-wise, particularly in southern Dallas, as per The Dallas Morning News.
In keeping with its mission, the center will operate from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, offering students access to success coaches and support services for necessities such as food, housing security, mental health support, and child care transportation needs. Lonon engaged the crowd at the center's opening with a chant, "We are in what business?" and was met with a unified response, "The barrier-busting business," highlighting the center's intent to remove obstacles and provide practical educational avenues, according to The Dallas Morning News.
The institution's commitment extends beyond the walls of the training center as the former mall continues to evolve, with past initiatives like the announcement in October by The Shops at RedBird and nonprofit Vogel to establish a daycare, prioritizing employees at the complex and families supported by Vogel. This network of support, underscored by partnerships including with the city of Dallas, Workforce Solutions Greater Dallas, and other organizations, marks a bold step toward bolstering not just the employment landscape but the very quality of life in South Dallas.