Many initiatives led to the establishment of Texas skill standards as a workforce initiative. The concept of a skill standards system was introduced in Texas in 1991 with legislation to establish the nonprofit Texas Skills Development Corporation. The purpose of the corporation was to "convene existing industry groups and industry associations to ascertain the skill requirements of occupations in the Texas work force." (Source: "Developing a System of Skill Standards and Certification for the Texas Work Force," Robert Glover, Center for the Study of Human Resources, LBJ School of Public Affairs, UT Austin, January 1993, p. 20 - project conducted under direction of the Director, Workforce Development Division, Texas Department of Commerce.) Although the bill was never enacted into law, the pursuit of a skill standards system continued.
In the following year, the Governor charged the Texas Department of Commerce with creating a skills development program to work with business and industry to establish employability standards. A panel of business, industry and labor representatives was convened and issued a 1993 report, entitled "Report to the Governor: Texas Skills Development Program". The report included recommendations for: setting standards for core (foundation and workplace) skills; marketing the benefits of skill standards and certification; establishing a State Board of Professional and Technical Standards to distribute industry-validated curricula and assessments; and instituting a system to measure and certify achievement of skills for students and incumbent workers.
Building on the recommendations from the Texas Skills Development Program report, the Tri-Agency Partnership of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the Texas Department of Commerce and the Texas Education Agency took the lead to further research key elements of a skill standards and certification system by funding the Texas Skill Standards Research and Communications Project (TSSRCP) for 1995-1996. As part of its charge, the TSSRCP reviewed national and international literature on skill standards; surveyed Texas employers; conducted focus groups with educators and training providers; and met with skill standards officials in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. In their final 1996 report, the TSSRCP identified strengths and weaknesses of national skill standards projects, and on systems in use in other states and countries. Their recommendations included: a skill standards system model, adoption of a common nomenclature and common format for skill standards.
The Tri-Agency Partnership funding of the TSSRCP dovetailed in 1995 with the establishment of the Texas Skill Standards Board (TSSB) by the 74th Texas Legislature as part of the workforce development system. Under House Bill (HB) 1863, the TSSB was created as an advisory body to the Governor and Legislature on the development of a statewide system of industry-defined and industry-recognized skill standards for all major skilled, sub-baccalaureate occupations that provide strong employment and earnings opportunities. The TSSB was charged with four specific mandates. In 1999, the 75th Legislature amended those mandates with the passage of HB 3431, as follows:
- validate and recognize nationally-established skill standards to guide curriculum development, training, assessment, and certification of workforce skills;
- convene industry groups to develop skill standards and certification procedures for industries and occupations in which standards have not been established or adopted and recognize the skill standards and certification procedures;
- review standards developed by other states and nations and enter into agreements for mutual recognition of standards and credentials to enhance portability of skills; and
- promote the use of standards and credentials among employers.
In 2015, HB 1606 abolished the TSSB and transferred its powers and duties to the Texas Workforce Investment Council. Composed of 19 members representing business, labor, education, community-based organizations, and its five state agency partners, this council has strategic planning and evaluation oversight of the Texas workforce development system.