Districts, OC get infusion of funds for CTE

Odessa College received a JET grant to partner with Crane ISD and Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD to serve students in welding and automation. (Ruth Campbell|Odessa American)

Regional school districts and Odessa College were presented with $2,566,283 in Jobs and Education for Texans grants that will help them beef up their career and technical education programs in ways they couldn’t have achieved alone.

The Texas Workforce Commission, in partnership with Odessa College, hosted the ceremony in the welding lab at Sedate Hall at OC Thursday.

Alberto Trevino III, commissioner representing labor at the Texas Workforce Commission, was at the welding area of Sedate Hall Thursday for a ceremony at Odessa College to award JET grants to regional school districts and OC for career and technical education programs. (Ruth Campbell|Odessa American)

Texas Workforce Commissioner Alberto Trevino III presented the oversized checks to Odessa College, Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD, Grandfalls-Royalty ISD and Monahans-Wickett-Pyote ISD.

The grants help defray start-up costs associated with developing CTE programs to public community and technical colleges and independent school districts. The program provides grants to eligible entities to buy and install equipment necessary for the development of CTE courses that lead to a license, certificate and post-secondary degree in high-demand occupations, a news release said.

OC received two JET grants totaling $223,732 to fund welding program equipment with Crane ISD and automation equipment at the OC Pecos campus. The new equipment will allow OC to expand capacity and train about 90 dual credit automation students and about 90 dual credit welding students by offering training and industry certificates that can lead to associate and bachelor’s degrees in both programs, the release said.

Grandfalls-Royalty was awarded $446,831; Monahans-Wickett-Pyote received $703,779; and Pecos-Barstow-Toyah netted $1,191,941.

With the training they receive in high school, students can move on to OC for further certifications and education.

Trevino said this area has received JET grants previously, but it has been a while. He added that he was pleased and hopeful to see the innovative changes that the funds will provide for the communities and the Texas workforce.

Trevino said districts can reapply. The money for the grants comes from federal and state funds. The Texas Workforce Commission distributes the grants.

Putting students in contact with careers other than white-collar jobs helps them realize that there are other potential opportunities than being a doctor or a lawyer. It also lets them finish school faster and doesn’t leave them with a lot of loan debt.

“They can actually get out and help the community and their family with great careers,” Trevino said.

Representatives from Grandfalls-Royalty ISD pose with their JET grant check Thursday in the welding area of Sedate Hall. At the far right is Superintendent Bryan Hernandez who said the funds will open doors for his small district. (Ruth Campbell|Odessa American)

Grandfalls-Royalty Superintendent Bryan Hernandez thanked everyone involved in obtaining the grant, but especially the CTE teacher, Buck Love, who oversaw everything from the beginning, did the paperwork, dealt with the business office, waited for deliveries and set up equipment.

“The joy for each delivery was amazing,” Hernandez said.

It was like opening presents every time. He added that Love is a blessing to the school and to many students.

Hernandez also thanked their partners at OC and with Permian Basin Innovation Zone, a rural collaborative where four districts have partnered with two institutions of higher education to provide students with access to career and technical education pathways. The overall goal is to help rural communities and students with workforce placement and opportunities for higher education.

“Grandfalls-Royalty is a rural community with a population of under 400 citizens. Our student population is around 130 students from preK through 12th grade; 62% of our students are economically disadvantaged and we are a Title I school. The funds from this grant helped GRISD update and expand our welding program. Our students were using equipment that was over 25 years old and now they even have computer controlled equipment and robots,” Hernandez said.

“These funds have also given our students access to industry standard welding tools. Before this grant, students were only able to receive three American Welding Standard certifications. But now we can certify students in 11 out of 12 certificates,” he added.

Students will now be prepared to enter the energy sector as oilfield welders. They will be able to pursue advanced technical school certifications, work remotely as CNC (Computer numerical control) operators or even start their own businesses, Hernandez said.

“With this equipment, we’ll be able to (serve) nearly 60 students in our area. This will definitely help us grow our students, our community and the job force here in the Permian Basin,” Hernandez said.

Representatives from Monahans-Wickett-Pyote ISD pose for a photo with their JET grant check Thursday in the welding area of Sedate Hall. At the far right is CTE Director Scott Burkett. (Ruth Campbell|Odessa American)

Monahans-Wickett-Pyote CTE Director Scott Burkett said without the JET grant there was no way his district could dream of what they’ve done and what they are considering in the future.

He praised everyone they worked with from OC and the Workforce Commission.

Burkett said the grant they wrote was geared toward restructuring and expanding its automotive program. To be adequately trained takes about five years, he added.

“We’re going to start that process at the high school and try to provide an outstanding foundation. Because of the JET grant, we’re going to be able to do that now. … We want to make sure we’ve got a solid foundation to get them ready for that next step into the post secondary world,” Burkett said.

Karen Matt, chief academic officer at Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD, said they received two grants to support students in a remote area of West Texas where sharing resources with other educational entities is nearly impossible.

“We’re in the process of building a brand-new CTE center at Pecos High School and we are looking forward to decades of preparing students for their future … These grants have provided equipment to our current and future students that would not be possible without” this generous support, Matt said.

“We know that welding jobs are high need, high interest, high wage occupations in our area. We currently have 133 students in that program. Our students are now better prepared to accept these positions immediately after high school, or to continue learning at Odessa College,” which will set them up for a lifetime of success, Matt added.