By Amanda Sotelo
A leader in apprenticeship programs, South Texas College recently welcomed local and statewide industry and educational partners for its second annual Apprenticeship Summit.
As a testimony to prove the power of apprenticeships, STC invited Construction Supervision student Cesar Zecca to participate in a panel to discuss his experience.
Zecca, 50, retired from the Department of Homeland Security after 30 years, and decided he needed a new start, but he never imagined the opportunities available to him at STC, he said.
“Since returning to the classroom, I have been given opportunities I could have never imagined, such as my recent apprenticeship,” said Zecca. “Being able learn and work, at the same time, has been a great advantage to my education. I’m getting real-world experience, learning from professionals, and that is invaluable. It has helped me tremendously and I hope my testimony inspires others.”
The McAllen native is currently completing his apprenticeship with Ochoa Construction in Mission.
For students like Zecca, apprenticeships are a learn-while-you-learn model that can be completed in a duration of one to four years. An apprentice must complete at least 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and a minimum of 144 hours of classroom-based instruction.
STC President Ricardo J. Solis, Ph.D., said to hear from students who are taking advantage of this unique learning experience is a proud moment.
“It’s always inspiring to personally hear from our students and how our initiatives are impacting their education and how most importantly, this leads to high-paying careers,” said Solis. “This annual summit gives us the chance to showcase these robust programs and share best practices on how we customize our training, how we pivot to meet industry needs and how we continue to develop programs using the latest, most advanced technologies. This summit really is a testament to the interest our industry and educational partners have in utilizing and learning what apprenticeships offer.”
Those in attendance learned that STC has 32 apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs that are federally approved or under development and led by STC’s Center of Advanced Training and Apprenticeships, ranging from computer network specialist, industrial maintenance mechanic and machinist to professional brewer, hotel associate and the newest and only in the nation, registered nurse apprenticeship.
The college also has more than 430 students enrolled in apprentice or pre-apprenticeship programs and has received more than $2.4 million in apprenticeship grants from the Texas Workforce Commission and the Economic Development Administration.
Desi Holmes, Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) director of Apprenticeships, said apprenticeships at STC have been so successful, because STC has its community close to its heart.
“STC is one of the strongest institutions when it comes to workforce training and apprenticeships,” she said. “As apprenticeship programs become more prevalent in the workforce community, STC can say that a lot of it started here; and it has the leverage to keep expanding its apprenticeship offerings. STC knows what our region needs, and its apprenticeship summit has garnered a large interest and I know it’ll keep growing.
Other topics discussed during this year’s summit include TWC funding and technical support for registered apprenticeship programs, the benefits of apprenticeship programs for business and industry, partnerships and apprenticeship perspectives, how Texas is becoming a national leader in apprenticeship training and emerging technologies used for training.
STC Vice President of Academic Affairs Anahid Petrosian, Ph.D., said apprenticeships are a proven workforce development tool that offers substantial benefits to workers and businesses.
“The major role of this summit is to provide awareness of the apprenticeship opportunities that are available here at STC, state and nationwide,” she said. “Apprenticeships have proven benefits for workers and employers. It leads to high employee retention and higher salaries, which can also help address economic challenges for workers and for employers it saves on recruitment costs, improves productivity and profitability and most importantly fixes a skills shortage. Overall, apprentices are improving American competitiveness in the global economy.”
For more information on STC’s Registered Apprenticeship Programs, visit https://www.southtexascollege.edu/cpit/courses/industry/apprenticeships/.