MCALLEN, RGV – South Texas College leaders say they were honored to have U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta present as they signed on as an official apprenticeship sponsor with the federal agency.

The signing ceremony took place at the Hyatt Regency Riverwalk in San Antonio during the 2nd Annual ApprenticeshipTexas Conference, hosted by the Texas Workforce Commission. The conference discussed best practices on setting up registered apprenticeship training programs.

“This is the first time STC becomes an apprenticeship sponsor for registered apprenticeships,” said Carlos Margo, associate dean of industry training and economic development at STC.

“We submitted an application over the summer to become an apprenticeship sponsor, which means we can begin offering apprenticeship training and register apprenticeships.”

Carlos Margo

Margo said the conference provided a great opportunity for hosts and stakeholders to gain insights from policy experts and leading practitioners in developing successful apprenticeship training programs.

Asked about the signing ceremony’s significance, Margo said:

“What this signing ceremony did is not only assign us to be an official apprenticeship sponsor, it also allowed us to adopt standards in heating, ventilation and air conditioning as our first occupation to be able to offer apprenticeship training. This is for both youths and adults.”

The Trump Administration has been championing apprenticeship programs and has set up a dedicated website to promote the effort – apprenticeship.gov.

Margo said both he and Mario Reyna, STC’s dean of business, were honored to have Secretary Acosta present for the signing ceremony.

Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta

“Secretary Acosta provided the keynote address at the conference, right before the signing ceremony. He acknowledged that the State of Texas is engaged in this apprenticeship effort. And that is correct. Texas Workforce Commission is supporting our efforts locally. Secretary Acosta wanted to be there when STC came on board as an apprenticeship sponsor.”

Asked how much interest there is in the Rio Grande Valley for apprenticeships, Margo said: 

“We have been having a lot of interest from our business community for apprenticeships, particularly for youth. Steve Ahlenius of the McAllen Chamber of Commerce has been instrumental in getting a lot of business engagement here locally. Edinburg Economic Development Council has also been resourceful in getting us engaged with the business community.

“So, we have a lot of interest in apprenticeship training, particularly the youth component. This apprenticeship conference highlighted our participation as a pioneer in getting these apprenticeship programs started. As a higher education institution, we want to be an apprenticeship sponsors.”

Margo thanked TWC for its help.

“The State of Texas has acknowledged how quickly we have become registered as an apprenticeship provider. This is just the beginning. We are going to be providing a lot more apprenticeship activity for both the youth, the high school students, and adults as well.”

Julian Alvarez, the labor representative on TWC, said he is proud of the work STC is doing with apprenticeships.

Julian Alvarez

“I asked Secretary Acosta to be there while STC did their signing. They, along with St. David’s Hospital, were fortunate enough to have Secretary Acosta in the picture,” Alvarez said.

“STC wants to focus on apprenticeships not only at the post-secondary level but also pre-apprenticeships in high school. In order to do that you had to get approval from DOL, to say their standards were high enough. We were excited to have that.”

Alvarez predicted that STC will “set the bar” for apprenticeship training in Texas.

“I think more and more people are going to be interested in the apprenticeship model when they see what STC is doing. Rita and Mike Hernandez told me they are looking to do apprenticeships in Brownsville. Anyone interested should contact Carlos Margo or Desi Holmes in my office.”

Alvarez said he expects Toyota to sign apprenticeship standards in November. 

“That is huge. Accenture is working on something also. We have a really good relationship with Alexander Acosta. He wants to see more interest in apprenticeship programs in Texas.”

Alvarez also thanked Matt Ruszczak, executive director of Rio South Texas Economic Council.

“Matt has done a really good job promoting apprenticeships. He has given me some good ideas on what is happening in other countries. I appreciate the hard work he has put into this. I know he will be working with Carlos to make the STC program a success.”

Also present at the 2nd Annual ApprenticeshipTexas Conference were Texas Secretary of State Rolando B. Pablos, TWC Chair and Commissioner Representing Employers Ruth R. Hughs and San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg.

In his keynote address, Acosta highlighted the important role of apprenticeships can play in preparing the American workforce for the jobs of today and tomorrow. 

Participating in panel discussions were St. David’s Healthcare, Brandt Company, Industrial Component of Texas, TRIO Electric, McLane Co. Inc., Adaptive Construction Solutions.

Representatives from the Texas Workforce Solutions – Vocational Rehabilitation Services Business Relations (TWS-VRS) team were also present, The team helps educate employers on disability awareness and establishing practices to recruit, hire and retain employees with disabilities. The team provided employer assistance with candidate screening, matching and job training. There is no cost to employers who receive services from TWS-VRS Business Relations.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above story shows Carlos Margo, associate dean of industry training and economic development at South Texas College.