ABC members

Associated Builders and Contractors Midcoast Chapter members at the Victoria Economic Development Center partnership meeting.

The Associated Builders and Contractors Texas Mid Coast Chapter plans to bring a training center to Victoria to provide more skilled workers in the Crossroads.

The training center will be at the previous location of Victoria Electric Cooperative, 102 S. Ben Jordan St., said member Mike Weaver at a recent Victoria Economic Development Center partnership meeting.

“We have 70 employees on a masonry company that we have,” Weaver said. “Sixty of them are from out of the region.”

Both Victoria College and Victoria Independent School District officials have met with ABC officials to discuss the need for a pipeline of skilled workers now and in the future.

“There is no formal partnership agreement on the training at this point, but we are continuing to explore that possibility,” said David Hinds, Victoria College president.

VC offers certificates, degrees and workforce continuing education technical programs to prepare students to be skilled workers, he said.

“While VC offers skills training, there is no denying that the need for skilled workers outstrips the supply,” Hinds said. “The folks at ABC are trying to further develop a skilled workforce for this region, and demand for skilled workers is only expected to increase.”

VISD also has the Career and Technology Institute, a secondary campus that offers opportunities for students to enroll in advanced career and technical education courses, said Superintendent Robert Jaklich.

VISD officials are working out a partnership with ABC regarding the training center, he said.

“We’re so proud of their initiative to create these opportunities not only for students in Victoria but the surrounding towns in our region, which creates a workforce for our community and our region to be able to give jobs and be filled with our local workforce,” Jaklich said.

To get the center started, the association needs about $300,000 of seed funds, said Kristi Stevenson, association president. If members raise at least $100,000, the state of Texas will match that with a grant of $100,000.

Funding comes from several sources, including school districts, employers, ABC donations, tax corporations and the state of Texas.

The biggest threat to the construction industry is the lack of skilled workers, Weaver said. The center will start out training plumbers and electricians and then span into other fields.

“The average age of (a plumber or electrician) is 58 years old,” he said. “For every three we have retiring, we have one entering the industry.”

The center would allow high school and adult students to be in a Department of Labor apprenticeship program and would train 50 high school students the first year before adding another 50 the next, Weaver said.

High school students would start the program as juniors and work for member companies after they graduate, Weaver said. Before becoming an electrician or plumber journeyman, they would have to work 8,000 hours in the program.

High school students would train early in the day, and adult students would train at night twice a week, he said.

“The main goal (is) we want to prepare plumbers and electricians — we want to prepare people with skills ready to go to work,” Weaver said.

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Kathryn Cargo reports on business and agriculture for the Victoria Advocate. She may be reached at kcargo@vicad.com or 361-580-6328. Follow her on twitter @kathryncargo.

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Kathryn Cargo covers business and agriculture in the Crossroads. She enjoys reporting on industry trends and getting her shoes dirty out in the field.

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