26
February
2019
|
05:26 PM
America/Chicago

Diving Right In: Unique Youth Apprenticeship Program Bringing Real-World Work-Study Opportunities to the Surface

There’s getting your feet wet, and then there’s splashing into the talent pool, cannonball-style. With the help of South Texas College, some enterprising McAllen-area high school students are choosing the latter.

Two months into a first-of-its-kind Youth Apprenticeship Program — developed through a partnership between STC, McAllen ISD, the Chamber of Commerce, and local business owners — things are going swimmingly. In late October, more than 65 students participated in a unique, pitch-and-interview process with McAllen businesses, from which 15 were selected for paid, college-credited work as an industry apprentice.

Carlos Margo - STC Associate Dean of Industry Training and Economic Development
“These students are getting paid, they are earning while they are learning, and in addition … they are getting a U.S. Department of Labor credential,” says South Texas College Associate Dean of Industry Training and Economic Development Carlos Margo. “That’s a nationally recognized credential that’s going to be with them for life.”
Carlos Margo - STC Associate Dean of Industry Training and Economic Development

“These students are getting paid, they are earning while they are learning, and in addition … they are getting a U.S. Department of Labor credential,” says South Texas College Associate Dean of Industry Training and Economic Development Carlos Margo. “That’s a nationally recognized credential that’s going to be with them for life.”

The issue is one of supply and demand, both regionally and nationally. In 2018, the U.S. added 238,549 apprenticeships – an increase of more than 45,000 from the previous fiscal year – with many of these opportunities developed in partnership with two-year colleges like STC.

In the Rio Grande Valley, the need for educated, trained career professionals continues to run deep, while the existing talent pool is shallow. This regional skills gap created a unique opportunity for South Texas stakeholders to pool their respective resources, working together not only to address critical workforce needs, but to foster the hopes and dreams of students in the community.

“Some great organizations, like the chamber, and great colleges like South Texas College, and outstanding business owners… they’re all going to come together to help that dream come to reality,” said McAllen ISD Superintendent J.A. Gonzalez, addressing participants of the ceremonial Youth Apprenticeship “Signing Day” event.

The program links McAllen-area high school students with local employers in select, high-demand industries, including Auto-Tech, HVAC, Hotel Operations and Culinary Arts. Combining college-level curriculum, taught by South Texas College instructors, with supervised, real-world work experience, apprentices go beyond the classroom, and into auto service facilities, hotels, work sites, kitchens, and more.

“The professionalism of these students has just shown right through,” says Chef Larry Delgado, venerated owner of top local Yelp-reviewed restaurant concepts Salt and House Wine & Bistro. “I feel these students can be great ambassadors for our brand and help us continue to build that in McAllen.”

The Apprenticeship program not only serves the immediate staffing needs of regional businesses, but also represents a way for key industries to keep pace with evolving demand. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects double-digit percentage increases in opportunities for HVAC (15%) and Culinary (10%) professionals by 2026, with Automotive (6%) and Hotel Management (4%) careers also projecting growth. Salaries are increasing with alongside demand, with all four apprenticeship-linked careers averaging above $45,000 in annual salary.

Among the local businesses helping pioneer the first-of-its-kind South Texas program are Atlas Electrical, (Air-Conditioning, Refrigeration and Plumbing Services), Boggus Ford, Clark Chevrolet, the DoubleTree, House Wine and Bistro/SALT, The Monitor and Santa Fe Steak House.

It’s a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” says Automotive Tech apprentice Aaron Martinez, who will soon begin his internship with 85-years-strong McAllen institution Boggus Ford.

The flashpoint for the Youth Apprenticeship program idea came from research into similar work done by Trident Technical College in Charleston, South Carolina. These findings, developed and shared with Margo by a member of Trident College and Rio South Texas Economic Council Executive Director Matt Ruszczak, led to a discussion about the region’s unique attributes – both geographically and demographically – and how such apprenticeships could benefit literally everyone involved.

In March 2018, STC announced its participation in the groundbreaking new project. By October, the College had signed on as an official, federal apprenticeship sponsor institution with the U.S. Department of Labor, consummated by an appearance by Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta at a Texas Workforce Commission event in San Antonio.

“We are going to keep it growing,” says Gonzalez.

The momentum isn’t stopping anytime soon. With job growth a priority, federally as well as regionally, apprenticeships programs are filling an urgent, versatile need. The next step, according to stakeholders, is to continue to expand the number of participating businesses, while seeking outside funding to sustain continued growth.

“This program is really where the future is headed in developing talent in our community,” says McAllen Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Steve Ahlenius. “I’m really excited about the commitment our business community has made.”

For more information on South Texas College’s U.S. Department of Labor-accredited Youth Apprenticeship program, email Associate Dean of Industry Training and Economic Development Carlos Margo at clmargo@southtexascollege.edu.

 

 

Starting early with an apprenticeship can provide entry into growing career fields:

Automotive Tech

Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics

$39,550 median salary

6% job growth by 2026 (45,900 additional opportunities)

HVAC

Heating, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers

$47,080 median salary

15% job growth by 2026 (much faster than average!)

Hotel Management

Lodging Managers

$51,800 median salary

4% job growth

Culinary

Chefs and Head Cooks

$45,950 median salary

10% job growth by 2026 (faster than average!)

Food Service Managers

$52,030 median salary

9% job growth by 2026