McALLEN, Texas – Union representatives in Texas are thankful for the work a former Texas workforce commissioner has done in championing apprenticeships.

Julian Alvarez, a Rio Grande Valley native, resigned as labor representative on the Texas Workforce Commission last week after seven years in the post. His position on TWC was due to end next Spring.

At a reception held in Alvarez’s honor by the Rio Grande Valley Partnership, the commissioner representing employers on TWC, Aaron Demerson, was full of praise for Alvarez.

“I will share with you when he first was appointed they (the unions) didn’t want him in that position. Basically, he said give me one year and let’s see what we can do from that (championing of apprenticeships) standpoint,” Demerson said.

“At his going away ceremony back in Austin (last week) he (Alvarez) had the entire union representatives singing his praises and saying thank you for the work that’s been done in that effort.”

Demerson pointed out that it was Alvarez who brought TWC’s first ever two-day apprenticeship summit to the Valley. He said it could have been held in Houston or Dallas or San Antonio. He said it was held in the Valley “with intention.”

Demerson said Alvarez has been incredible to work with at TWC. He said he christened him the Texas Tornado because of his energy. Demerson shared some of the successes Alvarez has had in bringing education and workforce training funds to the Valley.

One of the first initiatives Alvarez worked on was with DHR Health, Demerson recalled. “It was one of the largest grants ever given in the state of Texas,” Demerson said. “We we’re making history. It was pretty amazing what we were able to accomplish with that project.”

Another success has been the impact the JET grants have had, Demerson said. The Jobs & Education for Texas (JET) Grant Program entitles eligible entities to purchase and install equipment necessary for the development of career and technical education courses or programs that lead to a license, certificate or post-secondary degree in a high-demand occupations. 

Demerson recalled a meeting he and Alvarez had with then-state Rep. Eddie Lucio, III. Lucio had told them, we need more TWC programs in the Valley. Demerson said he and Alvarez gave their word that it would happen. But, when they looked into it, they found the Valley was not winning any JET grants because it was not applying for them. Demerson said Alvarez made sure the region did start applying. 

“I will never forget this. We went out there and the community responded in a big way. If you were looking at say 100 JET grants, then 80 of them were in the Valley. You know, those numbers are not factual but that’s the impact that was made. So much so that we (Alvarez and Demerson) were talking and we were saying, well, we need to slow down. And then we looked at each other and said, we’re not going to slow down, we’re going to do even more. It’s been phenomenal to see the results of all of those activities.”

Demerson rattled off more of the successful programs Alvarez has led the way in. One is recognizing and rewarding employers that hire individuals with disabilities. Another is the We Hire Veterans program. Another helps those transitioning out of foster care. Another is giving a second chance to those touched by the justice system.

“Congratulations, Commissioner Alvarez. It has been a delight and an honor. Thank you for everything you have done.”

Editor’s Note: Here is a video recording of most of the speech Commissioner Demerson made at the RGV Partnership reception for Alvarez:


Editor’s Note: The above video news story is the third in a four-part series on Julian Alvarez’s transition from the Texas Workforce Commission to the private sector. Click here to read Part One. Click here to read Part Two.

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