McALLEN, RGV – McAllen Mayor Jim Darling shudders to think where his city would be without South Texas College.
He made such remarks at a groundbreaking ceremony for its nursing and allied health campus in McAllen last August. He mentioned it at a ceremony to highlight a memorandum of understanding with UT-Rio Grande Valley in December. And, he referenced it at a grant presentation event at STC’s technology campus last Thursday.
“I can sincerely say that I don’t know where McAllen would be without STC,” Darling told attendees. “We talk about all these things that relate to employment and industry, and one thing I would like to emphasize that is that last month the unemployment rate here is lower than the State of Texas and certainly lower than the United States. That has a lot to do with the people in this room.”
Darling helped present a City of McAllen check for $400,000 to the Institute of Advanced Manufacturing at South Texas College. The funds will help hundreds of new and incumbent workers receive better training for in-demand manufacturing jobs.
“This grant helps us develop cutting edge programs, it helps us purchase curriculum, programs, licenses, software, and high-technology equipment that helps us stay on top of what is needed by industries locally,” said Carlos Margo, dean of industry training at STC.
Margo believes additional investment in IAM at STC will help the Rio Grande become increasingly competitive on a global scale. He said customized training involves over 300 courses at STC that have been tailored for the needs of local industry.
The strength of the college lies in modifying and customizing these courses, or developing new courses that companies need in order to thrive in the region, Margo told the Rio Grande Guardian.
“This is a competitive grant, and we have to apply to it each year,” Margo added. “Us receiving this grant is contingent upon our past performance here at IAM.”
Hosted at South Texas College’s Technology Campus in south McAllen, the Institute of Advanced Manufacturing received the grant from McAllen’s Development Corporation Fund on Jan. 19.
“I’m not sure where South Texas College be if it wasn’t for your partnership, not only the grant development funds that are critical for providing workforce development,” said STC President Shirley Reed.
Reed cited the existence of the technology campus itself.
“The City of McAllen and McAllen Economic Development Corporation play a critical role in making this building available so that we can make it a technology training center.”
In addition to Darling, Reed and Margo, featured speakers at the event included McAllen EDC President and CEO Keith Patridge, Regal Beloit Engineer Manager Kenneth Shaffer, and Alps Logistics Operations Manager Vincent McLean.
“We believe South Texas College is a great investment for these funds,” Dr. Reed said. “We hope to train another 650 new or incumbent workers with these funds, and we have outlined all the additional ways we use the funds to support advanced manufacturing.
“I want to say thank you, and we appreciate the partnership with McAllen Economic Development Corporation, Workforce Solutions, and all our industry partners. We can’t do this without you.”
MEDC President Keith Patridge said the reason for promoting advanced manufacturing is the impact it has on the community in bringing jobs to the area and ‘keeping up’ with technology advancements.
“This grant, allows us to keep up with that technology, it allows us to focus on where we want to be,” Patridge said.
“We want to be the ones that are doing the artificial intelligence equipment, we are the ones programing the equipment and in order for us to do that, we can’t do that without the support of all of you and these funds.”
Patridge cited a study on automation and the increased use of robotics in manufacturing by a university in Indiana. He said there has to be a careful evaluation of how the workforce is prepared and trained for future jobs competing with technology.
“With the advancement of 3D printing, commercialization of artificial intelligence we really have to look at how prepare our workforce and where do we position our community so that we are creating jobs that will not be simply become obsolete by technology,” Patridge said.
“I think some of those jobs are focused on building automation equipment, learn program, the aps, let’s look at the big angle to provide the technicians that will repair these robots.”
Alpha Logistics and Regal Beloit reported on the success of their partnerships with STC.
“The partnership with STC has a great impact, I see the enthusiasm of students wanting to train with us,” said Regal Beloit Engineer Manager Schaffer.
“It’s really helping our economy, keeping these skill trades that we have a need for. Having STC come along with this grant money really helps.” Schaffer said without such help his company would have a hard time finding skilled workers.
Vincent McLean, of Alpha Logistics, said the robotics industry is having a strong influence in drawing Mexican assembly plants to South Texas, which is generating openings for job opportunities and advancing the training of future workers.
“The robotics school is going to be a great significance on influencing how we run our business in the future,” McLean said. “This grant money gives us the opportunity to assess course management and requirements and to improve in overall performance.”
In his remarks, McAllen City Mayor Jim Darling mentioned the current unemployment rate in the Valley.
“I would like to emphasize that last month our unemployment rate here is lower than the State of Texas and certainly lower than the United States,” Darling said. “That’s what we are here for today, to become better prepared for the workforce.”