By Selene Rodriguez
South Texas College has stepped up and responded to high school students’ growing interest in short-term workforce training programs that can lead to high paying jobs.
Recently, STC held the annual CTE Leadership Meeting, for 21 of its partnering school districts from across Hidalgo and Starr counties to teach counselors more about the college’s updated program offerings, which include various credentials in business, public safety, technology, culinary arts and health care, according to the region’s career demands.
“Since the pandemic, we have seen many students seek an immediate return on their investment. They graduate high school and want to go straight to the workforce and we’re here for them, we have adapted,” said STC President Ricardo J. Solis, Ph.D. “That’s why we offer so many short-term certificates and stackable credentials, we want to help these students get into college, get a job and better pay. We don’t limit opportunities.”
At the event, representatives from school districts including Roma, La Joya, Sharyland, McAllen and Weslaco, alongside representatives from various charter schools, received a comprehensive presentation on the workforce programs offered at STC, highlighting dual credit opportunities for associate degrees, certificates or occupational skills awards (OSA).
STC Vice President of Academic Affairs Anahid Petrosian, Ph.D. explained how a microcredential, short-term skills training, can help those high school students who are not college-ready start working on their hands-on abilities and get into the workforce sooner.
Students can continue their education by adding to their skills and studies and eventually get an associate and bachelor’s degrees.
“We’re constantly revising our region’s demands to open new programs or modify existing ones, so every year we meet with our school district partners to keep them up to date so they can advise their students on what’s available to them,” said Petrosian. “As we grow, we continue to offer pathways where high school students can start to build their curriculum with microcredentials and go up all the way to earning a bachelor’s degree, seamlessly. Since 2020, we have awarded 1,602 OSA’s and 1,852 industry certifications.”
Petrosian also highlighted that STC provides the largest number of workforce programs available in the Rio Grande Valley, offering 41 associate degrees and 71 short-term credentials (50 certificates and 21 occupational skills awards).
Attendants were informed about the new programs started at STC this year, which include an Early Childhood associate degree, the Surveying and Geospatial Technology program which also offers a certificate, a Cosmetology certificate and a County Corrections Specialist OSA.
“STC is very innovative. I have participated in this event for a couple of years and there’s always something new,” said Mission High School counselor Katherine Deanda. “Welding is one of the most popular programs for our students but it’s comforting to know that there’s so many other choices for them, it’s a great partnership.”
Other non-credit certification programs implemented this year were Health Information Management Clerk, Patient Care and Administrative Technician, bus driving, Property and Casualty Insurance License Preparation and Entrepreneurship, among other small business classes.
Conference attendees were also invited to collaborate on the creation of new programs, provide feedback and participate in professional development courses at STC.
“For next year we’re looking to develop an Architecture program and certificates in Artificial Intelligence, Digital Video and Cinema Production, Network Security and International Business,” said Petrosian. “We continue to move forward at STC.”
STC is one of the largest Dual Credit Programs in the state. The program has grown from serving eight dual credit students in 1997 to over 11,000 in the 2021-2022 school year, serving more than 130,000 students and saving families $340 million in tuition.