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Francisco 'Frank' Almaraz of Workforce Solutions, Daniel P. King, superintendent of PSJA ISD, U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, and Julian Alvarez, commissioner for the Texas Workforce Commission.

EDINBURG, RGV – Doctors Hospital at Renaissance Health System and South Texas College received an estimated $2.6 million Skills Development Fund grant from Texas Workforce Commission to improve the skills of healthcare professionals.

According to a pamphlet provided by Doctors Hospital at Renaissance Health System (DHR), the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) funded the Skills Development Fund since 1995 and has created or upgraded more than 329,000 jobs. The grant allows local businesses, often in partnership with the community or college, to increase employee skill levels and wages.

Shirley Reed, President of South Texas College (STC), said over the past ten years, the college received over $13 million from TWC. She believes their vision and leadership are truly making a difference.

“[The grant] is absolutely focused on improving [the] skills [and] wages of our workers so that it has the spiral effect of improving our economy, the regional prosperity and ultimately the quality of life for everyone in our region,” Reed said.

Armour Forse, chief academic officer for DHR, said the grant includes courses for basic skills such as professionalism and customer service. Furthermore, the grant delves into a range of customized training such as medical billing, radiology, pediatric care and nursing.

“The grant is about improving the skills of the healthcare workforce here in the Valley [and] it’s also about giving us the ability to do more teaching and training,” Forse said. “Healthcare business is a business that is constantly changing. It is constantly on the move and as we all know, we don’t even know where the endpoint of all of that is.”

Julian Alvarez, III, TWC commissioner representing labor, signed the Skills Development Funds check and said the $2.6 million grant is estimated to have a regional impact of $96.7 million to the local economy.

“Through local partnerships, this skills development grant will build on the investment of future healthcare professionals in the community with customized training resources and providing advanced opportunities for highly skilled workers in the Rio Grande Valley,” Alvarez said.

Also in attendance was Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, who acknowledged the change in the economy and education.

“I know that we as a state are recognizing the changes that are taking place in our economy,” Hinojosa, senator for District 20 said. “We know that our public education system has to adjust to what’ s happening in our economy. And for us to really survive and expand, we also have to change our training methods [for] our qualified workers and jobs.”

DHR has over 700 physicians as well as 1,200 nurses and provides care to over 285,000 patients a year. Forse said DHR has about 500 students every semester and is constantly looking to use their campus as a platform to improve healthcare education. The healthcare consortium chose STC because of their Nursing & Allied Health division. The college offers certificates and associate degrees in healthcare areas including nursing, pharmacy technology and emergency medical technology.

Upon completion, Reed said they expect to train a little over 2,900 employees and create over 800 new jobs. The workers’ will also receive an averaged hourly wage of $20.49.

Also in attendance were Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, PSJA ISD Superintendent Daniel P. King, and Francisco ‘Frank’ Almaraz, executive director of Workforce Solutions, which covers Hidalgo, Starr and Willacy counties.

“I applaud the Texas Workforce Commission for awarding a $2.6 million Skills Development Fund grant today to South Texas College and a Healthcare Consortium, which includes Doctors Hospital at Renaissance,” said Congressman Hinojosa. “This funding will provide job training and assistance to the workers in the Workforce Solutions Lower Rio Grande Valley area and allow for greater access and opportunities to healthcare education and medical training.”

Editor’s Note: The photos accompanying this story were taken by reporter Ena Capucion.