CTE event highlights student opportunities

Ricky Lozoya hugs his daughter Brizzia Guzman as her mother Monica Lozoya looks on. Guzman signed an offer letter from Air Compressor Solutions in Odessa to be a welder on Wednesday at the business. (Photo Courtesy of Mike Adkins)

Like an all-star athlete, Brizzia Guzman signed an offer letter to work as a welder for Air Compressor Solutions in Odessa Wednesday.

The event was the result of a partnership with ACCESS, Ector County ISD Career and Technical Education and employers to have 400 CTE students meet with high-quality employers in energy, healthcare and culinary arts. More than 26 students have been placed in careers in these sectors. Wednesday’s event at Air Compressor Solutions was an ECISD CTE-ACCESS Career Placement celebration.

Guzman, 17, will start June 5. She will soon graduate from Permian High School.

Brian Stubbs, owner of Air Compressor Solutions, said this was just as big a deal as someone going off to college.

He said they had candidates interview with him and Guzman did an awesome job with that because that can be intimidating and scary to talk to the owner of a company.

“But she did a really good job sitting down, asking questions, listening and regurgitating what we said, with good questions and good actions afterwards. I think that just shows what kind of character she (has). We’re super excited to have her as part of our team,” Stubbs said.

He added that ACS has been in Odessa in some form or fashion since 1981.

“And, again, I’m a really big proponent of companies need to be involved in their communities that we live in. I think this is a great program to show how businesses, education and everybody else in the community (can) come together and make just an awesome opportunity for our young people, so I’m super excited,” Stubbs said.

Director of Administration Erica Pando said Guzman’s projected start date is June 5. Her parents, Monica Lozoya and Ricky Lozoya, looked carefully over their daughter’s offer letter. Other family members were on hand, as well.

ECISD Executive Director of Career and Technical Education Ryan Merritt expressed thanks to people in the room that made this happen, mentioning Ravi Shakamuri and Mike Mills of ACCESS, Workforce Solutions and the Odessa Chamber of Commerce, among others.

“We started this conversation about a year ago thinking through what we could do to make career fairs more engaging and really connect students to employers. In a traditional career fair, sometimes the companies set up and you hope students walk by and talk to the employers and not a lot of good conversations happen during those traditional kind of job fairs. So we wanted to bring the companies together and give students time to interview with them. The first step of this process was each student that was a senior in the welding program at Frost … met with seven different employers. They kind of did a speed dating activity where they went around and interviewed really quickly; kind of like a screening interview with seven employers. And then from there, it was kind of like an NFL draft in certain ways,” Merritt said.

Merritt said Mills would follow up with employers to find out who they were interested in.

“We started … collecting those lists. Some students had multiple companies interested in them. It … connected them for the (next) round to the interview process,” Merritt said.

Mills said ACCESS is an online platform students have been using to connect them with the local workforce.

Brizzia Guzman signs an offer letter from Air Compressor Solutions Wednesday at the business as her mother, Monica Lozoya, looks on. Guzman will start working as a welder for the company in June. (Ruth Campbell|Odessa American)

Monica Lozoya said the family is very proud of Guzman’s hard work, all her accomplishments and everything she’s done.

“She’s a great kid. She has a good heart. She’s a hard-working kid and we’re very proud and blessed to have her,” Monica Lozoya said.

Guzman said she has been welding since her sophomore year.

“It was just very interesting. I saw my cousin doing it and (heard) him talking about it. Since then, I got interested and I signed up for freshman year,” she added.

Guzman said she was very excited and blessed to sign the offer letter.

“I can’t thank the Lord enough. It brings joy,” she added.

Guzman said she was very excited, but nervous at the same time about getting this jump on work life.

“You’re realizing you’re becoming an adult already,” she added.

Merritt talked about Guzman blazing a trail for other students. Guzman said she hadn’t thought of herself that way, but it’s an honor for her.

Ricky Lozoya said he started welding at Ector in his sophomore year with Nat Armendariz, who is also Guzman’s teacher. Both said he was a really good instructor.

“I remember he would always push the students not to leave welding, to stick with it,” Lozoya said.

Merritt said he was very excited about these employment opportunities becoming reality.

“It feels really good to see (it) come to this in where the student is getting a job, starting her career with a local company,” Merritt said.

He added that there will be more events like this in the coming weeks.

Stubbs said he thinks this pipeline is a great opportunity for students because high school kids don’t always have a good pathway.

“They don’t see what they’re going to do with their life. They don’t see how they can apply their skills and their interests outside of high school. I think this is a good way for those kids to see what’s out there, what careers are out there, what companies are out there (and) what great opportunities they have, no matter what they want to do when they get out of high school,” Stubbs said.

Asked if he’s skeptical about hiring people when they’re this young, Stubbs said not anymore than anyone else.

“We try to vet out good candidates. But again, we train, we coach, we lead … We’ve talked internally; we’re going to treat her just like we do any other employee, so she’s going to come in and get the same training; same help; same coaching. We think she’ll be great,” Stubbs said.

He added that Guzman was very engaged when they interviewed her.

“She asked me a lot of questions. She also was very enthusiastic about the program and the big one is she followed up. She called Erica afterwards and followed up,” Stubbs said.