Raymund Paredes, Sylvia O. Praesel, and state Rep. Richard Peña Raymond.
Raymund Paredes, Sylvia O. Praesel, and state Rep. Richard Peña Raymond.

LAREDO, Texas – Supporting future leaders not only with a proper higher education, but with skills to survive in today’s workplace, is the goal of CAPED.

The organization, working with state Representative Richard Peña Raymond, is hoping the Legislature will approve a unique program very well known in Europe.

CAPED stands for Consortium for Apprenticeship Partners in Economic Development, and its founder chief strategist, Sylvia O. Praesel, is urging state officials to consider integrating education and the workforce in South Texas.

“Some students may drop out of college not only because they cannot afford it but because they need to work to put food on the table,” Praesel said in a phone interview on Tuesday.

According to a news release issued by Rep. Raymond, the Texas Tri-Agency Taskforce recommended aligning current P-16 education to workforce development and encouraging the state and each region to envision how to build local economies, industries, and jobs of the future.

Rep. Raymond said he will be filing a bill during the Legislative Session that begins in January. The bill envisions an apprenticeship-tax credit to give employers a $5,000 tax credit for each apprentice hired in an economically disadvantaged region located along the border.

“This is a great opportunity for our community because they are going to be attending school, getting their degree as they are earning a living wage,” Praesel said.

Raymond said the legislation will serve as a pilot project that reflects the Governor’s vision that each local community implement sustainable solutions best suited for that region.

“My hope is that my fellow policymakers along bordering communities will take a look at this business workforce development strategy which will help address the looming shortage of skilled workers by providing the tools they need to succeed,” said Rep. Raymond.

In a meeting between Raymond, Praesel and Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Commissioner Raymond Paredes, discussion focused on “the education workforce efforts underway in Laredo, Webb County which line-up with the Governor’s Tri-Agency Taskforce to address regional business needs for a highly-skilled workforce,” Raymond said.

“We are working with the Governor’s office to let them know that Laredo is the forefront of implementing this. We are really looking at communities from El Paso to Brownsville. We are going to be reaching out to everybody, because this bill that we are going to introduce will impact all the border communities,” Praesel said.

Raymond mentioned that thanks to CAPED, Laredo is being place “on the road map as a leader in outreach efforts primarily leveraging apprenticeship programs as comprehensive solution that would be greatly advantageous particularly in economically disadvantaged communities.”

Praesel wants to break barriers and she believes the only way to do so is through collaboration.

“We actually are getting that Tri-Agency Task Force Initiative underway and streamlining efforts from beginning at House-Bill-5, which says that every student has to choose a career pathway at the end of eighth grade, which is called an endorsement,” Praesel told the Rio Grande Guardian. “On our website is a wealth of information in terms of our strategy. This is a multi-pronged approach to innovative business solutions creating a skilled polished workforce. It creates multi-pronged solutions.”

CAPED is also working on introducing “soft skills training” preparing students for business interviews and etiquette on social media.

Also, Praesel spoke about a mentorship program, where the Baby-Boomer generation that is retiring can help become mentors for the next generation of leaders.

Since the Texas Legislature sessions begins in January 14, they hope by May they will know if the bill will pass or not. If the bill does pass, then it will probably go into effect by September 2017.

Click here for more information about CAPED and the Tri-Agency Report.