Schools help fast-track skilled workers into a variety of industries
Posted on April 10, 2013
Community colleges around Houston are scrambling to meet the demand for skilled workers who can leave school prepared – and in some cases, credentialed – and hit the ground running.
Fast-track training programs, federally funded through the Wagner-Peyser program and state-administered by the Texas Workforce Commission, are designed to put people to work sooner rather than later.
Lone Star College has answered the call with a $20 million investment into its “Energy & Manufacturing Institute,” a two-level, 80,000-square-foot facility at its University Park campus on Texas 249 and Louetta Road. The institute partners with local industry in preparing students for careers in automation, upstream oil and gas operations/manufacturing, machining, logistics engineering technology, and welding.
Joe Ed Bunton, director of oil and gas programs for Lone Star College, said an attractive component of LSC’s fast-track programs is the three hours of hands-on training for every hour of classroom lecture.
Online registration opens in April for “Drilling & Exploration Core Skills,” a 10-week program at LSC-University Park that trains workers for entry-level jobs that support drilling, casing, cementing and fracking in the oil and gas industry.
“There are a lot of people wanting work like this,” said Bunton, citing as proof the fact that in just one week, more than 700 people inquired about LSC’s highly successful engineering technology assistant program last year, which also was administered through TWC.
“We expected it to be mostly young kids with limited education, but we also got people who had bachelor’s degrees,” Bunton said. “So really, these programs are for the unemployed and the underemployed. The government is providing opportunities for people to get a job, or get a better job.”
Students attended tuition-free and the companies that hire them benefit from the training the government paid for. LSC hopes to re-create that success with its Drilling and Exploration program.
At San Jacinto College in Pasadena, students can access condensed courses and programs to quickly enter industries with high employment demand.
One such industry is truck driving, projected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to grow 21 percent by 2020.
SJC offers a six-week program that includes general knowledge of truck driving, air brakes, tank vehicles and hazardous materials. The program boasts 100 percent job placement.
Another hot industry is HVAC, and according to BLS, Texas has the highest employment level. San Jacinto’s north and south campuses offer an eight-week “fast track to HVAC” program that combines class time with hands-on training.
This fall, SJC North Campus and the Continuing and Professional Development Division will collaborate to offer a fast-track pipefitting and fabrication course. Craig Zimmerman, CPD dean of corporate training, said the 265-hour course will cover basic pipefitting, pipefitting fabrication, blueprint reading, advanced pipefitting standards and installation, and advanced fabrication and installation.
Last year, SJC received a $4.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to offer condensed training in cyber security.
Training is now under way to provide a skillset that can be put to use in a wide range of industries, from manufacturing to health care.
“There are many factors that affect employment needs in various industries throughout our region,” said Sarah Janes, vice president of continuing and professional development. “When one industry needs more skilled workers, you may find that another is experiencing the same need. This is why we’re offering and developing more training to produce skilled workers who are looking to fill those types of positions.”