(WACO) – Texas State Technical College, like other two-year institutions in Texas, must continue to be proactive in meeting the needs of state and regional business and industry partners, according to workforce and economic leaders.
“Moving forward, the colleges are going to be much more critical to our efforts,” said Jason Hilts, president and chief executive officer of the Brownsville Economic Development Council in Cameron County, home to TSTC’s Harlingen campus. “We don’t have enough skilled labor force. It’s not just a Brownsville or a Rio Grande Valley problem; it’s a national problem. If we are trying to create those sustainable jobs that help create a better community, we need to have a labor force that has more skills associated with it or we are not going to be able to compete for projects.”
The Texas Economic Development Division of the Office of the Governor focuses on attracting and retaining companies in aerospace, energy, information technology, petroleum refining, chemicals, biotechnology, advanced technology and manufacturing.
The Waco Chamber of Commerce also targets defense, supply-chain management and professional and financial services. The city of Red Oak, home to TSTC in North Texas, looks at support suppliers for Triumph Aerostructures and National Freight Industries, two of its largest employers.
“TSTC’s presence is a huge factor for economic development in our city for the industries we have now and the ones we are working on attracting,” said Lee McCleary, Red Oak’s economic development director. “In every correspondence I have with industries, TSTC is one of the top things we talk about. It is of keen interest to them.”
McCleary said he is impressed with what TSTC, which has 10 campuses throughout the state, can offer.
“I think that is why they are so successful,” he said. “They are focused on how they are doing in meeting the needs of the community and putting in programs that are market-driven.”
Hilts said the jobs of the future are focusing on automation, robotics, logistics, medical and food manufacturing, aerospace and 3-D printing.
In early 2016, the Computer-Aided Drafting program at TSTC in North Texas began using a 3-D printer to prepare students for engineering, design, manufacturing and design work. TSTC offers an associate degree and level-two certificate in Computer-Aided Drafting.
TSTC’s Welding Technology program in Waco last year received a KUKA welding robot from ARC Specialties in Houston valued at $150,000 and that is a kind used worldwide.
TSTC has resources accessible to fund industry training.
The Texas Workforce Commission offers Skills Development Fund grants for localized workforce training for technical and community colleges, economic development entities and workforce development boards. Skills Development Fund grants have helped more than 4,100 statewide employers with training for 329,000 employees since 1996, according to TWC’s “Skills Development Fund Annual Report, Fiscal Year 2015.”
TSTC’s campuses in Brownwood, North Texas and Waco received more than $2.2 million in Skills Development Fund grants through five TWC awards in fiscal year 2016. This translated into more than 1,000 Texas workers receiving customized training to improve their skills in instrumentation, advanced motor controls, logistics, hydraulics, troubleshooting and other tasks.
“TSTC has been a longtime partner of the TWC in the deployment of Skills Development Fund and Skills for Small Business grants that support customized workforce training for companies across the state,” said Carliss Hyde, vice president for sponsored programs at TSTC. “We are grateful to be part of the process in this successful program and anticipate nothing but continued growth in our involvement in these projects.”
Temple College, a partner with TSTC in Williamson County at the East Williamson County Higher Education Center (EWCHEC) in Hutto, held a meeting last fall with more than 70 business representatives to talk about Skills Development Fund grants and what workforce training was needed.
“Most people categorized it as industrial maintenance, and that would be robotics and equipment maintenance,” said Dennis McDonaugh, director of workforce education at Temple College. “They also need a smattering of leadership courses. There are a lot of people promoted to leadership positions that don’t have training.”
Because of that fall meeting, McDonaugh said the colleges are now working together on Skills Development Fund applications for some businesses represented at the meeting. McDonaugh said the college partnerships are modeled after one used at EWCHEC: Temple College teaches general education courses and TSTC teaches technical courses.
The TWC offers the Skills for Small Business grant for companies with less than 100 employees. Companies can also pay for workforce training through state and technical colleges.
The resources are in place for Texas technical and community colleges to continue adapting to an evolving global economy and to train students for tomorrow’s jobs.