Texas Rising - Fall 2011

Helping
Hands

JET Equipment Grants Improve Workforce Training Statewide

by Tracey Lamphere

Forty-four Texas community colleges and technical schools have bought state-of-the-art equipment in the past two years to train students for a wide range of high-demand careers, thanks to the Comptroller’s $10 million Every Chance Job Building Fund.

The state’s investment in 61 workforce training programs, made possible by the 2009 Jobs and Education for Texans (JET) legislation, was matched by local dollars that will train more than 8,200 students annually.

The training on JET-funded equipment will bring tangible financial benefits to every successful student and their families; on average, students should annually earn $17,663 more than they would with no postsecondary education.

In late 2011, up to $5 million is expected to be available for another round of equipment grants; all schools (even those previously funded) will be eligible to apply.

A Powerful Program

Students and faculty at Eastfield College in Mesquite recently erected a 50-foot, 3.5-kilowatt wind turbine for its new Alternative/Sustainable Energy Program. The program received $147,098 in 2010 and is the only Dallas Community College District campus that secured JET equipment grant funds.

“Without the JET grant I do not believe Eastfield College, in these troubled financial times, could afford to equip a renewable energy program,” says Dr. Chuck Dale, Electronics and Electronics Systems Technology Department program coordinator at Eastfield. “Having the wind turbine up and working has brought immediate attention to the fact that Eastfield has a renewable energy program. Overnight, the wind turbine has become a symbol of Eastfield’s progressive curriculums.”

The grant also funded solar panels, pneumatic simulators, roof simulators, computers, solar thermal collectors and programmable logic controller units. This semester, 14 students are enrolled in the alternative energy course and are on track to receive their Solar Certificate in May 2012 or their Renewable Energy Certificate, which includes both wind and solar training, by May 2013.

Helping Others Breathe More Easily

Waco’s McLennan Community College received $147,762 in JET equipment grant funding for its respiratory care technician program in 2010. Students there had been using equipment that was up to 10 years old, says Doug Gibson, program director.

“Before the JET grant, our resources were limited to what was donated from area hospitals.”
— Doug Gibson, McLennan Community College

“It’s like learning to drive with a 1999 Ford and then having to drive a 2011 model. Chances are you’ll know how to start the car, but you may not know how other components work because technology has come a long way,” Gibson says. “Before the JET grant, our resources were limited to what was donated from area hospitals.”

The matching funds helped McLennan College buy pulse oximeters, which monitor oxygen levels in the body, and buy the same type of ventilators used at Waco-area hospitals where students hope to find jobs after graduation. The program graduated 25 students in spring 2011 and has 30 enrolled this fall.

After graduation, students are eligible to take credentialing exams to become a Certified Respiratory Therapist and Registered Respiratory Therapist. They can then pursue entry-level registered respiratory therapist positions.

Students also have the option to transfer to a four-year school to earn a bachelor’s degree in respiratory care, which prepares them for management roles or teaching, Gibson says.

Pieces Come Together

A $45,000 JET equipment grant beefed up the welding program at Texas State Technical College in Harlingen. The associate in applied science (AAS) degree program was launched in 2009, but two courses were not as strong as officials would have liked them to be, says Kenny Moore, Welding Technology chairman.

“We’ve had a lot of students going through our Welding Technology AAS program. The problem was we were lacking in equipment for those last two semesters, for introduction to metallurgy and codes and inspection classes,” says Moore. “It has really transformed those two classes into a really well-rounded program. The guys are getting a lot more practice now. They have a lot more machines to work with. Before the grant, it was basically just talking about them, showing them on the board, showing them on the overhead.”

“The guys are getting a lot more practice now. They have a lot more machines to work with. ”
— Kenny Moore, Welding Technology chairman.

In fall 2011, there are 80 students enrolled in TSTC-Harlingen’s welding certificate program and 25 students in the AAS program.

“They have a good chance to get into any type of industry that they are interested in,” Moore says. “Our placement rate has been over 90 percent for the last three years. That is a good percentage especially for the times that we are in right now.” TR

Every Chance Every Texan

Who’s being trained on the JET equipment?

Annually, an estimated 8,288 students will be served by JET funded equipment.

  • 3,216 Health Professionals
  • 1,753 Precision Production Students
  • 1,463 Engineering Technologies Technicians
  • 720 Mechanical & Repair Students
  • 455 Construction Trade Students
  • 439 Science and Technologies Technicians
  • 243 Computer & Information Science Support Students

Source: Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts

Find out more about post-secondary education opportunities in Texas and the JET Every Chance Job Building Fund equipment grants at the Comptroller’s EveryChanceEveryTexan.org website.