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Daingerfield-Lone Star ISD, community college alliance aims to fill technical jobs

By Angela Ward
Feb. 21, 2013 at 11 p.m.

A planned partnership between the Daingerfield-Lone Star ISD and Northeast Texas Community College could help address the need for more high school graduates with industrial technology skills.

The program was developed because of concerns from business leaders in East Texas who can't find the workforce they need, said Sandra Quarels, superintendent of the school district.

"We believe this will benefit our students by teaching them skills that local businesses are seeking," Quarels said. "While college-readiness remains important, we realize that not all our students will attend college, and workplace-readiness is also an important component of high school education."

Most students will enter the workforce before college graduation, she said, even if it's only for seasonal or part-time jobs. By providing students with the skill set employers are seeking, they will have a better chance at finding well-paying work.

The first year of classes will cover introduction to industrial maintenance, hydraulics and pneumatics, and mechanical maintenance. The second year will cover work place skills, fundamentals of electricity and motor controls.

"We've been working on getting this launched for about a year and will have a meeting next week to discuss it with parents and students who think they might be interested in this educational option," Quarels said. "We're planning on one class session, but if there's enough interest, we'll expand it to two sessions."

The meeting will be at 6 p.m. Monday at the Industrial Technology Trade Center, 1100 Lakewood Drive in Mount Pleasant. Parents who have questions can call the administration building at (903) 645-2239.

Kevin Rose, associate vice president for workforce development at NTCC, said the program is being funded with a grant for $244,770 from the Texas Comptroller's Office.

"We need a trained workforce throughout the state that can handle a variety of industrial jobs," Rose said. "Most high schools couldn't put together a program like this on their own, but we can partner with them to make these educational opportunities available to a wider variety of young Texans."

The grant money will be used to purchase a mobile learning lab that the college instructors will bring to the high school campus. If the program is successful at Daingerfield High School, NTCC plans to bring it to other schools in surrounding counties.

Jim Waldo, director of maintenance for Priefert Ranch Equipment in Mount Pleasant, said his company has noticed it's increasingly harder to find skilled mechanics, electricians and electrical technicians.

"We've got a great need for people with these kind of skills and training," Wade said. "Our company has worked with NTCC to provide apprenticeships for their technology students."

Applicants with at least a Level 1 Industrial Technology Certification can generally find jobs with starting wages of $12 to $20 per hour in East Texas, Waldo said.

The plans to increase technical educational offerings tracks with House Bill 5, which has recently been introduced in the Legislature by state Rep. Jimmie Aycock to allow for more vocational classes. Rep. Travis Clardy, who represents Rusk, Nacogdoches and Cherokee counties, has been a vocal proponent of increased vocational educational opportunities.

"I strongly support Rep. Aycock's bill," Clardy said. "I think we need to offer the next generation as many opportunities as possible to become educated in a variety of fields that will be necessary for the 21st century workforce."

The bill would allow for more electives and vocational educational classes on the path to high school graduation.



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