Aging workforce, robust construction climate fuel need for workforce apprenticeship programs with adult learners

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June 6, 2017 by HCDE-Texas

With the blitz of baby boomer retirees in industry and construction, the shortage of skilled workers is ever so prevalent. That gap is closing thanks to a growing partnership between Harris County Department of Education and Adaptive Construction Solutions. While HCDE supplies adult academic remediation, Adaptive Construction Solutions, an ApprenticeshipUSA program, offers career training and employment.

HCDE is currently serving 102 apprentices who are military veterans training to become iron workers. The model is so successful that it is being replicated and expanded into other occupational areas per the demands of area companies.

Navy veteran Anthony Serrata Jr., 24, is eight weeks into a three-year program which will build his construction and academic skills while he is also being paid. He says he instantly felt a kinship with the other men who are in his small class and gets all the help he needs from his two HCDE teachers: a trades teacher and a math/reading remediation teacher.

“My goal was to find a trade that is meaningful and will help me be successful,” said the father of two. “We’ve all made mistakes, but this program helps us get back on track.

While the construction teacher is showing students how to handle tools and measure materials, the academic teacher is called upon to give students a refresher course on fractions for measurement. Both teachers are available at all times to the adult learners.

Later in the day, students and teachers move to the corporation for on-the-job training.

Adult education and literacy programs in the state are now funded through the Texas Workforce Commission through the U.S. Department of Labor in a move to help students acquire skills needed for the workplace. Locally, ApprenticeshipTexas supports the Texas Workforce Commission’s goals to expand registered apprenticeships, and Workforce Solutions Gulf Coast is the regional arm of the Texas Workforce Commission.

Through the workforce model, remedial math and language curriculum is customized by HCDE’s Adult Education division to fit the needs of local employers. The foundation course is the basic National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) core instruction which teaches construction fundamentals such as construction math, hand and power tools, construction drawings and safety. Employees move on to specializations after gaining the certification.

Besides the attrition of skilled workers who are retiring, robust construction in is another force driving the demand for a new generation of skilled workers.

“So much construction is occurring in the greater Houston area, and it’s projected to reach into the year 2040, so we had to take innovative steps to meet industry demands,” said James Carnes, U.S. Department of Labor.

HCDE County School Superintendent James Colbert, Jr. said the Department is uniquely positioned to offer support as its adult education program reach throughout Harris County, with 200 highly qualified adult education teachers and 50 learning centers ranging from Alief to Spring Branch to Liberty.

Success of the program with HCDE is bringing additional referrals for partnerships, according to Carnes. The attrition rate of the apprenticeship program is very low, he explained.

“With the case of classroom instruction, these students need training, support, remediation—the whole nine yards,” Carnes said. “Harris County Department of Education provides the tools needed for remediation needed in the program. All the parts fit together.”

For information about HCDE Adult Education programs and services, go to www.hcde-texas.org/adulteducation.

Photo: HCDE Instructor Clifton Hypolite works with student Anthony Serrata Jr. in a skilled workforce training class.

About HCDE Adult Education: With a 30-year track record, HCDE Adult Education provides classes to adult learners with a goal to “learn to earn,” including adult basic literacy and math skills, GED, English as a second language and vocational training. Classes are held in 35 community locations throughout Harris and Liberty counties as HCDE serves over 8,000 adult learners. Communities include Baytown, Alief, Channelview, Cy-Fair, Deer Park, Galena Park, Goose Creek, Katy, Klein, Pasadena, Sheldon, Spring Branch and Liberty. Corporations also benefit from HCDE services provided to English language learning employees aimed at improving productivity and safety in the workplace. For more information, access www.hcde-texas.org/adulteducation or 713-692-6216.

About Harris County Department of Education: HCDE helps school districts in the state’s largest county meet the needs of uniquely challenged learners, directly serving students at their schools or one of four HCDE-operated campuses across the county. Learn about these services and more at www.hcde-texas.org.

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