Pre-apprenticeship program aims to address workforce issues

STEVE CLARK, Staff Writer

The lack of a skilled workforce is a persistent issue in the Rio Grande Valley and a primary reason it’s so difficult to attract the kind of industry that provides high-paying jobs.

While the population is on the rise and the number of high school graduates with it, few young people are graduating with the kinds of skills advanced manufacturers need to function. To address the situation, Cameron County Education Initiative Inc. and Workforce Solutions Cameron have teamed up to create a pre-apprenticeship construction program in Cameron County.

To fund the effort, two oversized checks for $50,000 each were presented Friday during a ceremony at Workforce Solutions headquarters, one to Workforce Solutions from the Texas Workforce Commission and one to CCEI from the Hernandez Foundation.

The program, part of the Texas Industry Partnership Initiative, will provide training to participants in the use of basic hand and power tools, trades math, and blueprint-reading, among other skills. Also, the program will offer certification in areas such as first aid, forklift operation and OSHA standards. The 10-week course begins Aug. 10.

Julian Alvarez, TWC commissioner representing labor, presented the TWC check to Workforce Solutions.

“Apprenticeships are fairly new to South Texas, but they’ve been working all over the state,” he said.

Mike Hernandez, chairman and CEO of the Hernandez Foundation and founder of CCEI, a nonprofit vocational educational institute, thinks creation of the pre-apprenticeship program will help finally start to move things forward in terms of workforce development.

“We have to keep training, and there’s always going to be new skills that are required,” he said. “We have to stay on the cutting edge.”

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