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Marble Falls program offers adults pathway to career change

CONNIE SWINNEY • PICAYUNE STAFF

MARBLE FALLS — Growing opportunities in fields such as health care, financial and technical services have inspired a program to help adults find a new career.

Gail Davalos recently launched the Mickey West College to Careers Foundation, a nonprofit managed by the Legacy Fund. Davalos named the fundraising mechanism for the College to Careers program after her mother, the first female bank president in San Antonio in 1984 who eventually retired in Horseshoe Bay.

“We would like for it to be an adult career pathway program targeting working adults who are in lower-wage jobs, helping them get a degree or certification for a higher-end job in our area,” Davalos said. “We would try to recruit people and assess people and also help support those people by coordinating financial aid that is already available like state and federal programs as well as other grants that apply as well as charitable funds.”

The fledgling program will first focus on Burnet County residents but eventually expand to offer regional services.

Components include a collaboration among higher education, private industry and government entities to connect individuals with local resources to transition them into new careers.

“Scott & White Healthcare is building a hospital, and they will eventually employ nearly 500 people. They will need people in nursing and technicians or whatever the case may be,” she said. “That creates a higher demand for health-care workers.”

College to Careers fills a gap by providing “case management” for residents transitioning to a field that fills an employment gap and provides better financial opportunities.

“CTC offers associate of nursing degrees, Texas Tech has a bachelor’s in nursing. We have the raw ingredients here. We have the educational institutions that can do the training, and we have the large employers,” Davalos said. “The gap that is there is an inadequate supply of credentialed, skilled workers, so those employers don’t have a qualified labor pool to pull from to fill those jobs.”

Marble Falls Economic Development Corp. has provided nearly $1,900 in seed money for the program’s first Career Pathways Visioning Forum — a conference in July comprised of officials in the health-care industry, higher education, restaurant and hotel management services, technical trades and financial fields.

The facilitator is the Waco-based Center for Occupational and Research Development, a national nonprofit organization.

“We want them to outline what has worked in other communities,” said EDC Executive Director Christian Fletcher. “What we’re trying to do is kickstart that conversation at a new level and figure out if there are some things that can be applied in Marble Falls.”

The day-long forum is scheduled for the end of July and will feature cross-industry employers such as restaurant services, financial services and health care, economic development officials said.

Davalos said, as the collaboration efforts get under way, she has set a fundraising goal of $100,000 for the program.

“We have a willing education partner in Central Texas College, and I believe we’ll have willing employers, but we’ll have to build the student-support component, and that requires funding,” she said. “If a large employer like Scott & White cannot employ qualified personnel locally, they have no choice but to hire mostly from outside our area. This raises their labor costs and deprives our citizens an opportunity to compete for those better-paying jobs.”

To find out more about the program, donate or volunteer, call Davalos at (830) 265-8024.

connie@thepicayune.com