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Grant to Lone Star College equips workers with upgraded skills

February 21, 2019

Laborers who need to upgrade their skills to reach higher levels of employment may be in luck due to a partnership between the Lone Star College System and the Texas Workforce Commission.

In early February, the system was awarded a grant from the commission of almost $1 million to train and equip workers with the skills needed — such as forklift operation, hydraulics systems knowledge and even supervisor skills — to combat a shortage of skilled workers.

Of the nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs expected to be needed in the next decade, 2 million of those are predicted to remain vacant because employees don’t have the proper skills, according to a Lone Star College press release.

Patricia Buerger, Lone Star’s Corporate College executive director, said the system has received these types of grants from the commission for more than 10 years. Each year, college officials partner with a different company to enhance the skills of their employees.

“The majority of the training is to focus on those skills needed in the technical area of what the business does,” Buerger said.

This year, the college is partnering with the air conditioning company Daikin Industries and Goodman Manufacturing, a subsidiary of Daikin, which is headquartered in Houston. The company has a manufacturing plant west of The Woodlands in Waller, Texas.

LSC officials first partner with a company to develop a training plan, and then they present that plan to the commission in their grant application.

Once awarded, about 10 percent of the grant goes to purchasing proper equipment, and the rest goes to training programs. Much of the training is done by LSC instructors at LSC-University Park along State Highway 249.

“While we do the forklift training at the client site, things like industrial maintenance and hydraulics, they’re working on in the classroom with trainer machines,” Buerger said. Safety skills are also taught throughout each training element.

This year’s partnership training is only for employees who are employed at Daikin. LSC had train at least 530 employees, but went beyond that to train more than 1,000 workers. Buerger said about 650 of those people have been new hires, who they can train quickly at the onset of employment.

“This program allows a company to hire someone who may not have the prerequisite skills, because they can’t find people with those skills, and put them right into training,” Buerger said.

It’s not just new employees who benefit. The skills taught through the program can lead to higher-level positions at the same company, which Buerger said comes along with a high level of company loyalty for the participants.

“The skills are also transferable to other companies as well. The training belongs to the participant,” Buerger said.

The Lone Star College System isn’t the only entity awarded funds earmarked for workforce development. For the fiscal years 2018 and 2019, the Texas Workforce commission is providing a total of $48 million in training dollars to support these types of programs across the state.

In 2018 alone, the commission served 90 businesses in Texas, supported the creation of more than 4,500 new jobs and upgraded the skills of nearly 11,500 workers in existing jobs. The program was formed in 1996.

Ruth Hughs, the commission chair and commissioner representing employers, said in a press release that the commission is excited to support this program.

“The Texas Workforce Commission is working hard to invest in students to help fill these important jobs and put them on a solid career path,” Hughs said.

jane.stueckemann@chron.com