Texas Rising September/October 2009
Three Funds - The Launchpad Fund, the Job Building Fund, and the Career and Technical Scholarship Fund

Giving Texans Every Chance

Funds will expand career and technical
education, help low-income students

By Clint Shields

Local Government Tools that Made the Difference

Work Force Boost

Adding to the need for more technical skills is an aging work force in existing jobs, says Kevin Deiters, director of the Comptroller’s Educational Opportunities and Investment Division.

Austin, TX

“It’s important to provide the technical training that new generations of workers need to succeed the skilled employees reaching retirement age, as well as meet the work force needs of new technologies and enterprises,” Deiters says.

The $25 million Every Chance Funds will enhance the efforts of organizations such as Austin’s Capital IDEA.

“These funds will invest in proven initiatives that train underemployed adults to meet critical work force shortages in high-paying jobs,” says Ofelia Zapata, co-chair of Austin Interfaith, which helped start Capital IDEA. “This is the most effective kind of economic development.”

Check out qualification guidelines and application timelines at the Every Chance Funds Web site.

A resurgent Texas job market will demand more skilled workers.

Comptroller Susan Combs recognized the state’s skills gap in her 2008 Texas Works report and called for greater support for multiple paths to success, including one- and two-year postsecondary programs that will train Texas’ future work force.

The 2009 Texas Legislature responded by passing legislation to create the Jobs and Education for Texans (JET) Program, which aims to meet work force needs with training at community colleges. The Comptroller’s office will administer the program under the umbrella of the Every Chance Funds. The Every Chance Funds carry $25 million in funding over the next two years to assist in three areas.

The Launchpad Fund has $5 million annually in fiscal 2010 and 2011 to support Texas nonprofit organizations whose programs prepare Texans for careers in high-demand technical occupations.

The Job Building Fund has $10 million to disburse to Texas community colleges and technical schools to help purchase the cutting-edge equipment needed for high-demand career and technical education programs.

The Career and Technical Scholarship Fund will provide $2.5 million in tuition grants in both fiscal 2010 and 2011 to eligible community colleges or public technical institutes to award scholarships to students enrolled in a training program for high-demand occupations.

The Every Chance Every Texan Web site lists the qualification guidelines and application timelines.

Program funding was in place Sept. 1, 2009, and administrators envision making the first awards by November, says Kevin Deiters, director of the Comptroller’s Educational Opportunities and Investment Division. Combining the outreach efforts of local nonprofit groups with educational opportunities that schools provide – along with some scholarship money – will help interested students help themselves.

“There are great jobs out there for people with one- or two-year certificates that let them do what they love to do and that pay well,” Deiters says.

Nonprofit organizations, such as San Antonio’s Project QUEST, already assist low-income students through mentoring, financial and community support. QUEST’s aid recipients are top performers in community colleges, says QUEST board member Paul Martinez. The Every Chance Funds offer even more opportunities.

“The Every Chance Funds can help Project QUEST lift more people out of poverty and into the middle class,” Martinez says.

High Expectations

Laredo Community College (CC) educates more than 8,000 students at its two campuses and online Distance Learning Program. The school hopes to receive some help from the Every Chance Funds, and officials there are eagerly anticipating its benefit to students.

“Texas community colleges are the best vehicle for Every Chance funding to make a difference in local communities,” says Blas Castañeda, Laredo CC’s chief of external affairs and economic development officer. “And as other states see it, I think you’ll see it emulated.”

The school plans to seek Every Chance Job Building Funds to enhance its industrial training programs, including wind and solar energy, oil and gas and manufacturing. Webb and Zapata counties, served by Laredo CC, are two of the state’s largest oil and gas producers.

“We have not only an interest but an obligation to support that industry,” Castañeda says.

An advantage for community colleges, he says, is the ability to tailor the curriculum to the needs of local industry so that upon graduation, there are jobs available.

“Community colleges in the state must be able to respond to business and industry needs and develop the type of industry training that they need,” he says. “Not what we think they need, but what they actually need.

“The Every Chance Funds are a vital component for the human capital in our state. Once you enable them to go to school, they can compete with workers around the country.” TR

Number of Projected New Jobs 2006 to 2016 - Precision Production 38,950; Mechanical Technologies 64,400; Engineering Technologies/Technicians 67,950; Construction Trades 157,950; Computer and Information Sciences 217,650 and Health Professions and Related Clinical Services 297,200.

The Comptroller’s office has identified numerous high-demand certificates and associate degrees in Texas colleges in fast-growing sectors of the job market. Download or read the Texas Works report.