EDC, WorkSource helped communicate needs of workforce

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Alice Echo-News Journal

With noticeable growth in the local oil and gas industry, Coastal Bend College Alice has plans to fill that need with new program offerings beginning this fall.

The school's efforts are in cooperation with the Alice & Jim Wells County Economic Development Corporation and WorkSource.

Rito Silva, Director of CBC Alice, said business leaders in the community played a role in the development of the new programs as advisory board members.

"Many of the companies in the machinist and oil and gas industry were a huge help for us. The members of the advisory board helped to put much of the curriculum together," Silva said.

It is the college's hope that local companies will use the programs to help upgrade training of their current personnel, and many of the companies have offered to conduct on-the-job training and lab work for those in the programs, he said.

The school will offer a machinist certification program, along with an applied associate's degree, and an oil and gas technology curriculum leading to an associate's degree. The school will also start a drafting and design technology program certification, leading to the associate's degree.

"We're really excited we will be able to respond to the needs of area employers, which is what a community college should be doing. As we get closer to implementing the programs, we'll have an open house to unveil these programs to the community," Silva said.

Dean Kruckenberg, executive director of the Alice & Jim Wells County EDC, said other needed programs, such as Commercial Drivers Licensing and Certified Nurses Aide, will also be included to service the growing workforce.

Kruckenberg said 80 percent of all new jobs are created by existing businesses that expand their workforce.

Through communication with area businesses, the shortages soon became apparent, with the need for more CDLs and drivers with HAZMAT endorsements, along with those with training in machinist work and oil and gas production, Kruckenberg said.

"Employers are saying they can't find enough workers to fill their needs and the new program this fall will give them basically an Oil and Gas 101. Here is the drilling process; here is what the completion process is. The students get an idea what the job entails and what instruments will be used," Kruckenberg said.

Companies such as Ram Gear Manufacturing, Alice Machine Shop, Flowers Machine Shop, Dixie Iron Works and EnDyn Inc. have been in communication with the EDC and with WorkSource.

"As I talk with all those people, they tell me the same thing, we don't have enough people. Dr. Silva has been good about getting the message across about what we need in this area," Kruckenberg said. "The need has always been there, but the degree of that need has increased along with the oil and gas boom. We've also discovered that if we worked together, EDC with CBC and WorkSource, we have a triangle that can really get something done."