State grants $1.3 million to train Eagle Ford workers

Community colleges across the Eagle Ford Shale region will receive $1.3 million to help get 800 low-income South Texans into higher-paying jobs with the oil or medical industries.
The state grant is geared toward training for licensed vocational nursing, medical assisting, welding, commercial truck driving, office technology, and oil and gas operations and maintenance — positions needed in South Texas immediately thanks to the oil boom that’s added thousands of workers to the region.
And it’s meant to keep businesses from importing talent from other states to fill those new jobs.
“The current economy is leaving a lot of people behind,” said Federico Zaragoza, vice chancellor for economic and workforce development at Alamo Colleges. “This is so important in South Texas because of the demographics.”
Training could begin by mid- to late-April, but the enrollment and assessment process for students could start as early as February.
The grant for career and technical training comes from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The goal is to marry technical training with basic skills education for those with limited skills, who lack a GED or high school diploma or who may have a limited ability to speak English.
Qualified applicants will be able to attend basic skills classes at no cost. Many schools are offering tuition assistance for up to two of the technical certification classes as well.
David Blackmon, managing director of strategic communications with FTI Consulting in Houston, said hiring qualified workers at all levels, from skilled workers to those with graduate degrees, continues to be a challenge for the oil and gas industry.
“We have a shortage in pretty much every area you can imagine,” Blackmon said.
Alamo Colleges will facilitate the grant, and participating community colleges include Coastal Bend College, Laredo Community College, Victoria College and Southwest Texas Junior College.
The South Texas colleges will receive funding to create curricula that will train as many as 1,200 students in hopes that at least 800 will successfully complete the coursework.