Advocate Editorial Board opinion: Help Victoria students prepare for future

By the Advocate Editorial Board
Feb. 25, 2014 at 6:05 p.m.
Updated Feb. 24, 2014 at 8:25 p.m.

The unemployment rate has been falling in Victoria. Businesses have been lamenting about the shortage of skilled labor. The Eagle Ford activity has bolstered Texas' economy but not without snatching some of our local workforce. In addition, we have seen growth with Caterpillar and expansion of Port of Victoria and regional petrochemical plants. This trend is causing a fast growing demand for a skilled workforce that is outpacing the ability of career and technical educational facilities to keep up. Luckily, we have help on the way.

VISD has partnered with many different parts of the community to ensure students have plenty of post-graduation options, Lauri Voss, coordinator of VISD's career and technical education department, said. Career and Technical Education encompasses training programs in both middle and high schools in the district. The district also has the career and technology institute, which is right next to the district's home offices. The Career and Technology Institute offers training options for students in their sophomore year of high school to senior year, Voss said. Students have access to career and technical programs including engineering, health and medical, agriculture, business and more. The purpose is to prepare students for industry-standard certifications.

For example, Voss pointed to the CTI automotive programs. Students can learn how to handle collision repair and refinishing or become auto technicians. The program is partnering with local dealerships to help the students learn and also to help them begin careers in the industry. The training students receive helps them prepare for the different certifications required to begin working in the industry.

Another set of certifications that will be available through partnerships are VISD's firefighter and police officer training through dual-credit courses with Victoria College. In the firefighter program, students can begin training in high school and, with a little extra training, could possibly become certified firefighters soon after their graduation from high school. "The new programs that we are doing with the college are very exciting, so we need to get the word out," Voss said.

Victoria College has also been working to meet the challenges of providing a skilled workforce. Caterpillar and Victoria College have teamed up with a Skills Development Fund grant from the Texas Workforce Commission to custom train 180 new workers in the college's Liberty Street Industrial Training Center.

Through the Skills Development Fund grant, Victoria College has also acquired funds to work with DeTar Hospital and the petrochemical industry to upgrade training for existing employees and provide training for new employees.

All of Victoria College's workforce programs have advisory teams made up of local businesses that help direct curriculum needs for different job skills. The college works closely with the Workforce Development Board to identify high demand jobs and develop programs around those jobs. Dr. Tom Butler, president of Victoria College, mentioned three new programs that will take place at the new Emerging Technology Center: machinist, industrial maintenance mechanic and oil and gas technician.

Butler says that the college is up to the task of just about any training need. "If there are students who want to do it - and jobs waiting on the other end - we will try most anything," Butler said.

We applaud these institutions for recognizing the current challenges and putting into place programs to address the workforce needs. We hope that they will continue to partner to solve these communitywide issues. We have confidence in the leadership of both VISD and VC to listen to the business community and work together for an efficient solution.

If you are a business leader in this community, we hope that you will reach out to one of these organizations to see how you can help. If you see a void in the workforce, ideas for certification programs or have specific job skill training needs, we encourage you to work with VC or VISD, who both have the resources and skills to best address our workforce issues.

We encourage everyone to work together as a community to solve these large, complex problems - it is the only way we can make a difference.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.



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