Students at Gladewater High School now can gain skills for the workforce, thanks to a partnership with Gladewater ISD and the Gladewater Economic Development Corp.

GEDCO is providing funding and space for students to take a class in metal fabrication and machining, Executive Director Robert Johnson said. In the future, it hopes to add such programs as welding and nursing.

“It’s great to work closely with the school on this endeavor so we can help our business community get people that are work-ready,” Johnson said. “Not everybody goes to college. Some people pursue vocational degrees and are looking to just develop those skills.”

Gladewater ISD Superintendent Sedric Clark said the conversation for the partnership began in the spring of the 2018-19 school year. During the summer, the project was developed and approved by both GEDCO and the district board.

The program started when school was back in session this fall, Clark said.

The space GEDCO is providing will be at the Lee Public Library and Gladewater Center for Community Education, Johnson said. The space will allow students to use the equipment and materials they need to improve in the skills taught.

“We’re very excited about it,” he said. “We look at skills development and take that very seriously; it’s a critical part of economic development. You want to create jobs in your city, but you also want to have a trained and ready job force.”

Clark said students are identified based on their career goals. After school officials talk with students, the ones who are interested in the skills offered can take the class.

Clark’s hope is his students are prepared for high-paying jobs, even if they do not go to college.

“They can step off the field on graduation night with a diploma and step into a career the next day,” he said. “It’s in its infancy stage; there are 21 students in it now, but if we get five to 10 kids a year who leave high school and get a job in the community, we consider that a success.”