Texas Workforce Commissioner Julian Alvarez (kneeling) signed a $52,500 ‘check’ during a May 3 presentation to Highland Lakes economic leaders in Marble Falls. The commission matched contributions by three area economic development corporations to support educational efforts in several high-demand careers. Joining Alvarez at the ceremony were Pat McDowell (standing, left) of the Llano EDC, Burnet City Manager David Vaughn, Marble Falls EDC Executive Director Christian Fletcher, and Workforce Solutions Rural Capital Area CEO Paul Fletcher. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro
STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
Texas Workforce Commissioner Julian Alvarez said the last time he was in Marble Falls, as a high school sports official, he was booed.
In all, the college is receiving $105,000 to go toward helping 46 adult learners become plumbers, electricians, bookkeepers, and certified nursing assistants.
“I’m a firm believer that, to be successful in Texas, you don’t have to possess a four-year degree,” Alvarez said. “This is a testament to that. What you’re establishing in this region isn’t for someone to have a job but for someone to have a career.”
The Texas Workforce Commission matched that amount and awarded it to Workforce Solutions Rural Capital Area, which helps connect job seekers and employers in Burnet and Llano counties.
“This invests sales-tax dollars, specifically in high-demand occupations,” said Gail Davalos of WorkForce Network Inc., which was charged with writing the grant proposal.
Marble Falls EDC Executive Director Christian Fletcher noted the grant paves the way for Highland Lakes residents to obtain the skills to earn a living in jobs paying far more than minimum wage.
Burnet City Manager David Vaughn said one part of his job that he loves is helping people.
“You don’t know who they are, but you’re making a difference,” he said. “I hope we can grow our partnership in future years.”
Llano Mayor Gail Lang said she hopes the partnership will continue to grow and benefit the region so residents can take care of their families the best they can and have the lives they want.
The Texas Workforce Commission grant is part of a statewide effort to support collaborations between Workforce Solutions partners and local economic development entities. These partnerships are to create occupational job training programs so residents can improve their skills to fill voids in high-demand jobs in Texas communities, according to a statement.
Davalos said the Marble Falls EDC board and Fletcher deserve a large amount of credit for ensuring this grant happened.
“They’re the biggest players,” she said. “EDC is making the investment. The EDCs are to be applauded for making this investment and the Texas Workforce Commission for matching.”
Introduction to Accounting and Business Management, which emphasizes bookkeeping and accounting skills, and the certified nurse aide classes have already started. The plumbing and electrician classes will begin in Marble Falls this September.
To be eligible for financial help for one of the programs, students must
• live in the Highland Lakes and work in the area once training and certifications are complete;
• be U.S. citizens or permanent residents ages 18 and older;
• have a high school diploma or GED, since these are college-level classes;
• be willing and able to work;
• and, if male, be registered with Selective Service.
Members of the target group typically are low-income, low-wage workers and job seekers in their 20s through 50s.
Fletcher noted it takes a commitment from many people to ensure success. Employers often adjust their workers’ schedules so enrollees can attend class. Some students must get child care or sometimes struggle to pay for the gas to get to class. That’s why there’s financial aid.
“Basically, we’re trying to remove any obstacles,” Fletcher said. “There’s a lot of hands in distributing opportunities for people. That’s even more icing on the cake.”
Davalos noted the classes usually have a waiting list.
“We always have more applicants than space,” she said.
This is the fourth grant Central Texas College has received from the Highland Lakes area since 2015.
Call Davalos at (830) 265-8024 for more information.