Workforce training courses move workers up and into jobs

10.07.2015 | By Jeannie Peng-Armao

Lynn Hobbs, a project manager and master electrician for Austin Industrial, often hears of the problems employers face when trying to find the right people who possess skills in the craft trades. This is why she has gone back into the classroom at San Jacinto College to teach those who are new to industry and to help current workers upskill.

"There's just a lack of crafts people," said Hobbs. "There was the big university push, and everyone sort of diverted off and stayed away from the craft trades. The jobs are not going to get done if we don't have the people to do them."

Workers with skills from across all craft trades are in such high demand that employers like Turner Industries Group, LLC, visit community colleges for recruitment.  

"We are happy that San Jacinto College listens to our concerns," said Carla Thompson, workforce development coordinator with Turner Industries. Thompson serves as a master trainer for National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) courses, supports job sites for training, and works with journeymen to help them gain certifications to meet the needs of clients. Turner Industries has hired students out of the San Jacinto College craft trades certification courses.

“On-the-job experience plus the community college NCCER classes can speed up the process to become a successful journeyman,” she said. “Doing so opens positions for entry-level employees to enter the industry."

This is exactly what Dustin Richardson, an electrician helper with Triad Electric and Control, is working on by attending classes at night and working during the day. Richardson is completing a series of 16-week electrical courses in the College's applied technologies and trades program, offered through the noncredit Continuing and Professional Development division.

"There are electrician jobs everywhere, residential and in the plants," said Richardson. "If you go to school, you can advance yourself with the certifications. A journeyman can make $30-50 an hour. My company already said that once I get my certification, then I can bump up in pay."

Next door to Richardson's class, a pipefitting class takes place each Monday and Wednesday evening, where Jose Medina and Edgar Rodriguez are training to upskill. Rodriguez is a pipefitter training to advance his pay and move up in his career. Medina is a boilermaker who wants to hold skills in more than one area to become more marketable to employers. This career move is proving to be smart for many as employers take an even closer look at people with multiple skill sets.

“It’s important to come here to better ourselves,” said Medina. “There are a lot of jobs out there for just about every craft trade, but many employers are looking for pipefitters.”

Community colleges like San Jacinto College are offering more of these types of courses on demand, with requests from industry, in both the credit technical education side and the noncredit division. Courses cater to those who are new to craft trades, incumbent workers, the unemployed or underemployed. Classroom to certification time can range from 16 weeks to one year. Many of the noncredit courses are linked to credit courses, allowing a person the option to further his or her training and credentials to include an associate degree.

"This is what makes today's training programs unique," said Dr. J.D. Taliaferro, director of applied technologies and trades at San Jacinto College. "We have an entire group of directors from all sectors who go to companies in a variety of industries and identify their workforce needs."

Dr. Taliaferro noted that the College's upcoming millwright training, in current development, is an example of courses that have resulted directly from industry requests. Another course in development is to train machinists, a prelude to the computer numerical control (CNC) courses already offered at San Jacinto College.

"Years ago, the applied technologies and trades program started with just sheet metal and welding training, and this has now evolved to include a variety of craft trades," said Taliaferro. “We listened to industry, and we’re now in the business of finding solutions to their workforce shortage by giving people industry-recognized certifications to enter into a craft trade career and continue to upskill after they are on the job.”

About the Continuing and Professional Development division
This division at San Jacinto College provides continuing education and training for both current and future employees in the professional and technical job sectors, as well as provides the public with noncredit open enrollment course options to enhance their lives. Professional and technical training is available through contract training, open enrollment, and grant funding. For more information, call 281-476-1838 or visit the Continuing and Professional Development division website.

About San Jacinto College

Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for more than 50 years. As an Achieving the Dream Leader College, San Jacinto College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of approximately 30,000 credit students. The College offers 186 degrees and certificates, with 46 technical programs and a university transfer division. Students benefit from a support system that maps out a pathway for success, and job training programs that are renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $690 million each year to the Texas workforce.

For more information about San Jacinto College, please call 281-998-6150, visit www.sanjac.edu, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.