By Roberto Hugo González
South Texas College (STC) held its annual Apprenticeship Summit on November 16, 2023, convening workforce leaders and professionals to explore STC’s significant impact on the region’s workforce development. This summit aimed to engage with the community, seeking input on workforce needs and fostering understanding about STC’s role in regional progress.
The event featured panels discussing various aspects of STC apprenticeships, including program details, funding mechanisms, success stories, benefits, partnerships, and emerging technologies. Notable attendees included STC leadership, Texas Workforce Commission’s Director of Apprenticeship Desi Holmes, South Texas Manufacturing Association’s Mike Willis, and Francisco Almaraz of Workforce Solutions, alongside other distinguished representatives from various sectors.
A highlight of the summit was the speech by Julian Alvarez, Senior Vice President of Business Development at Lone Star National Bank and former Texas Workforce Commission Commissioner Representing Labor. Alvarez, a significant figure in Texas workforce development, emphasized the importance of skilled trades and diverse educational pathways in his address.
Alvarez pointed out that Texas’ workforce needs were shifting, and the state required highly skilled individuals to attract major companies like Toyota and Space X. He noted that options beyond four-year degrees were essential, as many of the state’s most in-demand occupations did not require such degrees. Alvarez stressed the importance of certifications and the role of community colleges in providing diverse educational opportunities.
Underlining the significance of apprenticeships, Alvarez highlighted STC’s pioneering efforts in introducing a Registered Nursing Apprenticeship, a first in the nation. He applauded STC for creating earn-while-you-learn models and for its partnerships with local businesses and industries, providing community members with on-the-job training and valuable skills.
The summit, marking Apprenticeship Week, celebrated STC’s role in enhancing workforce development and the variety of pathways available to individuals in the Rio Grande Valley. Alvarez concluded his speech by urging continued support for diverse educational and career paths, highlighting the collective efforts in the Rio Grande Valley that are shaping a bright future for South Texas.
Alvarez’s impactful speech at the South Texas College Apprenticeship Summit, it’s clear that his message resonated deeply with the audience, encompassing a broad range of stakeholders from various sectors. His insights brought light on several key areas crucial for the future of workforce development in Texas and beyond.
A significant part of Alvarez’s speech centered around the importance of skilled trades and educational pathways other than traditional four-year degrees. He highlighted that high-demand jobs in Texas often do not require a bachelor’s degree, opening up opportunities for vocational training and apprenticeships. This perspective aligns with the evolving needs of the modern workforce, where practical skills and hands-on experience are increasingly valued.
Alvarez praised South Texas College for its innovative approach to education, particularly for being the first in the nation to introduce a Registered Nursing Apprenticeship. This program exemplifies the earn-while-you-learn model, which is central in today’s economy. STC’s partnership with local businesses and industries not only benefits students but also the regional economy by creating a skilled and ready workforce.
A compelling aspect of Alvarez’s speech was his focus on inclusivity in workforce training. He spoke about initiatives targeting populations that are often overlooked, such as individuals who have been incarcerated or those with disabilities. By incorporating these groups into the workforce through targeted training and education, there is a potential to tap into a previously underutilized pool of talent.
Alvarez called for continued innovation and support for diverse educational and career paths. He stressed the importance of adapting to the evolving workforce needs and embracing new technologies and methods in education and training. His vision for the future is one where education and training are accessible, inclusive, and aligned with the demands of the modern economy.
The Apprenticeship Summit at STC, with Alvarez’s speech as a centerpiece, underline the need for a forward-thinking approach to workforce development. The discussions and insights from the summit highlight the evolving nature of work and education, emphasizing the importance of adaptability, inclusivity, and practical skill development in preparing a competent workforce for the future.