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Texas leaders hope change in community college funding could address skills gap in the workforce

St. Philip's College provides industry training and certifications while students get degrees. Workforce leaders say that training is needed in the labor pool.

SAN ANTONIO — In the St. Philip’s College manufacturing lab is a lot of high-tech equipment.

“No one would give their kid keys to a Corvette, but we do here,” that Corvette is a Haas ST 10 machine tool, which the college spent millions of dollars in CARES Act money to outfit for its students.

“We find ourselves to be ahead of our time,” Program Director and Assistant Professor Anthony Broderick is teaching the next generation, often high school students when they’re 17 or 18 years old.

“You’ll find half the job descriptions out there have our core courses, essentially those are the skillsets they’re looking for. Precision management, blueprint management, basic machining, CNC controls,”

Broderick says training at the college is working with things like this material handling arm. The machines make tasks on the assembly line easy.

State lawmakers want to create performance tier funding for community colleges based on measurable outcomes.

Those measurable outcomes include: the number of students who earn at least 15 semester credit hours, students who complete a sequence of at least 15 credits for dual credit courses that apply toward academic or workforce programs, and the number of credentials of value awarded.

Texas Workforce Commission chairman Bryan Daniel told a House committee that community colleges can close the skills gap, which is facing two million Texans.

“Their ability to create flexible programs that address these training needs is absolutely critical and they use a number of tools to do that, but we’ve reached the point where we need a few more tools,” Daniel said during testimony last week.

And with these tools provided by community colleges, Broderick says it doesn’t take a lot of time to close that gap.

“You don’t even have to do a full two years, we have one year certifications so you can feel it out, find out where you want to go,” Broderick says it will help set students up to start high-paying, in-demand jobs.

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