Summit promotes blue-collar jobs
Industry leaders seek to attract more youths
By Fanny S. Chirinos
October 4, 2007
Jobs such as engineering and welding wouldn't be considered sexy to most people. But Tim McDaniel begs to differ.
As plant manager for DuPont Fluoroproducts in Ingleside, McDaniel knows these careers require intellect. And they reward handsomely, from $60,000 to $100,000 a year. His problem is getting future workers of the area interested.
Interest in the trades and crafts has dwindled in the past 30 years as many considered them last-resort careers for those not interested in or successful at four-year universities. Educators and industry leaders are trying to change that mentality and career counselors are recommending trades as often as they do four-year degrees.
"A bachelor's degree in political science and $7 will get a value meal at McDonald's," said Mary Afuso, director of customized training for Del Mar College. "What we need is to train students to enter the work force. We need industry to tell us what they need so we can give it to them."
About 150 educators and industry leaders converged at Del Mar College South Campus for the 2007 Workforce Development Summit, a conference aimed at finding ways to give students and adults the skills needed for the area's higher-paying jobs.
Steps have been taken to bridge the gap between high schools and industry, such as apprenticeships in high school that lead to trade certification or count toward an associate's degree at Del Mar College.
Other examples include the aviation maintenance program at Flour Bluff High School and the automotive technology program at Tuloso-Midway High School. Both developed from industry needs -- the Corpus Christi Army Depot needed trained workers and car manufacturers needed workers certified in repairing their newest, high-tech models.
The summit, sponsored by the Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Corpus Christi and Port Industries of Corpus Christi, was a forum for schools and businesses to network and share what each can do for the other.
The goal is not only to fill the needs of today, but also the needs of the future, said Roland Mower, president and CEO of the Corpus Christi Regional Economic Development Corp., who spoke at the summit.
There were more than 1,700 direct jobs open in 2006, which translated to a $58 million loss in wages, taxes and indirect revenue, Mower said. About 20 percent of the work force is expected to retire in the next five years, leaving a gap in industries such as petrochemical, construction and welding. With the deterioration of infrastructure, this means a slowdown on work on roads, buildings and construction.
Randy Geisler, training manager with Bay Ltd., said much of the work force shortage boils down to a lack of "soft skills." Soft skills include resumé-writing, computer literacy, interview skills and promptness.
"Attendance and retention are our biggest problems," said Geisler, one of the summit's speakers. "If we can get someone to show up on time ready to work, we can train them to do the job on the job."
The summit called on plant managers, business owners, teachers and school administrators to discuss programs in place to make that happen and what could be done to reach more students while still in elementary, where their minds are full of dreams.
Ridge Hammonds, principal at Casa Linda Elementary, recalled the many years following college he searched for his place. He said career exploration at a young age would have set him on his path in education much sooner.
"Luckily, it's happening now," said Hammonds, one of the summit's attendees. "My kids are going on field trips and learning what their options are. There still is more that can be done."
Job training resources
- Associated General Contractors of America, South Texas Chapter
518 S. Enterprize Parkway, Corpus Christi
- Craft Training Center of the Coastal Bend
7433 Leopard St., Corpus Christi
- Del Mar College
101 Baldwin Blvd., Corpus Christi
- WorkSource of the Coastal Bend
1616 Martin Luther King Drive, Corpus Christi
Contact Fanny S. Chirinos at 886-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: Corpus Christi Caller-Times