The economy in the Rio Grande Valley is directly impacted by its community. When several different organizations come together and work toward a common goal, they are able to see the results firsthand in the workforce.
This is the case with the partnership between Texas State Technical College-Harlingen, Workforce Solutions Cameron, Harlingen Economic Development Corporation, and Boggus Ford Harlingen. With direct funding from Harlingen EDC, support from Cameron Workforce, and an internship program offered at Boggus, students at TSTC benefit from continuing their education in Harlingen.
Creating a stronger, skilled workforce is a task of many moving parts. Richard Mesquias, senior field development officer at TSTC, is proud to be part of an education program that makes a difference in the lives of local students. He understands the importance of updated technology in the programs being offered today.
“Back in the day, you could learn to be a mechanic at home, but the way cars are built these days, you need a better understanding of the electrical work,” he said. “Our program at TSTC offers an education with advanced technology that makes students more likely to land jobs in this field in the RGV.”
The auto collision repair training program at TSTC covers many areas of focus, including aluminum welding — something that is very prevalent in more current models of automobiles. As technology evolves, so should education. Having programs like these is essential to keeping the local economy running.
Pat Hobbs, executive director of Workforce Solutions Cameron, emphasized the importance of building a workforce in the economic development area that not only attracts people to come to the area but also helps locals want to stay. When students decide to stay and continue their education here, it boosts the local economy.
“Forty years ago, the landscape of the workforce was different,” Hobbs said. “If you got a bachelor’s degree in almost anything, you could probably find a job. Now, the emphasis is on skilled trades.”
Workforce Solutions Cameron and Harlingen EDC are major players in the funding aspect of programs being offered at TSTC. Together, they are securing a skilled workforce that in turn provides local businesses with talent.
“We are all trying to work together to rebuild our workforce and assist businesses to upgrade to higher level skills and pay better wages so our kids will stay here,” Hobbs said. “They want to stay here, and the first time a job becomes available in their path, they will come back — but they shouldn’t have to leave in the first place.”
Along with receiving funding for the programs, Mesquias sought other avenues of assistance. Jacob Boggus, general manager of Boggus Ford in Harlingen, initiated the Boggus Ford Scholarship Fund as well as an internship program for students enrolled in the automotive program at TSTC.
Boggus Ford plays a huge role in the direct correlation between education and the workforce. Boggus hires many graduates from the automotive program, as they are fully equipped to work on the machinery found at the dealership.
“When the students consider a career path, they look at a program that’s going to offer them not only the training in that industry, but something that offers them real-world training, too,” Boggus said. “Because the value in that is going to exceed any type of textbook training.”
Rather than hiring an entire crew that consists of people with specific skill sets such as tire rotation or electrical work, employers can benefit from hiring individuals who have gone through this program at TSTC. This ensures they are onboarding an employee that has been exposed to all aspects of the mechanics when it comes to autobody.
“This program offered at TSTC fits in line in terms of what we’re doing such as attracting manufacturers in the automotive sector,” said Raudel Garza, CEO of Harlingen Economic and Development Corporation.
TSTC student Rey Rocha shares the impact the program and internship have had on his life.
“My experience at Boggus Ford has been great — I’ve learned a lot there,” Rocha said. “The automotive program at TSTC has the latest technology, such as wheel alignments, aluminum welding, auto collision interactive technology board. It has everything I need in order to be better prepared and succeed in the industry.”
Garza stresses the importance of supporting programs generated by TSTC to help get our workforce ready and to ensure that our local employers have the workforce they need.
“I think it’s important that the Texas Workforce Commission continues to work with the local workforce boards in terms of bringing the monies down to this level so that our local workforce can get the skills they need and local employers will continue to not only be profitable, but efficient, as well,” he said.