CONNIE SWINNEY • STAFF WRITER
MARBLE FALLS — A job-training program offering free tuition has proposed expanding to include trades such as plumbing and electrical with potential seed money from the state and the Marble Falls Economic Development Corp., officials said.
The Career Assets job-training program — launched in 2015 in cooperation with Central Texas College — currently provides resources for healthcare industry and hospitality fields with the assistance of state grants and local economic development funding as well as business participation.
Coordinators of the program are now seeking $37,000 in potential matching grant funds from the EDC to grow the program with resources for the industrial arts.
“The next step is job training for plumbers and electricians,” Career Assets founder Gail Davalos said. “We’re moving into the construction trades because of the high need in our area, all of Burnet County and Llano County, for the tradesmen and more tradesmen.”
The Sept. 30 deadline is approaching to submit an application with approved EDC funding to the Texas Workforce Commission, which would match the money dollar for dollar.
EDC board president Steve Reitz, who also owns a construction business, expressed support for the proposal during a recent EDC meeting.
“We need kids that maybe aren’t two-year/four-year program-type individuals,” he said. “We need guys that are out there that want to make a living for their family, and they’re going to readily go to work.
“Employers are out there hiring these guys, but the training isn’t there,” he added.
During a September EDC meeting, the board approved the funding contingent upon an education sub-committee researching whether the Central Texas College courses connected to the industrial arts are accepted by the U.S. Department of Labor requirements toward professional certification.
If approved, the EDC money would derive from “recruitment and retention” funds.
“The board is looking at it closely depending on some additional information,” Reitz said. “It’s going to be an ongoing program that’s going to develop with CTC that will enable everybody to benefit from it in the construction industry.”
Davalos said the grant would provide core funding for new students.
“It’s a way to leverage our local funds with state funds. Those dollars would go towards tuition, so the students are relieved of having to pay tuition,” she said. “It will pay for books, the facility charge, for the tools that are needed in the class.
“It will also pay for apprenticeship registration and some other support costs for the students,” she added.
The proposed expanded program would involve six classes with 12 students per class in areas such as plumbing, electrical, welding, and air-conditioning trades, Davalos said.
Classes are proposed to start in January 2017.
“With the construction industry as predominant in our area as it is today, it’s a great asset for the high school to be offering these industrial arts classes and then have another avenue to further their education as they enter our industry,” Reitz said.
For more information about Career Assets, call (830) 265-8024.