LAREDO, Texas – The Texas Border Coalition has written to members of Congress urging adequate funding for Adult Basic Education, jobs skills and apprenticeship programs.

Blas Castañeda
Blas Castañeda

In its letter, TBC points out that despite the demand for ABE programs, federal investments serve fewer than two million adults annually. These investments have declined by roughly 20 percent since 2005, the group states. It says the number of individuals served has declined by one million since 2000.

TBC is a collective voice of border mayors, county judges, economic development commissions and private businesses focused on issues that affect 2.5 million people along the Texas-Mexico border region and economically disadvantaged counties from El Paso to Brownsville.

TBC is working closely with the state and federal government to educate, advocate, and secure funding for transportation, immigration and border security, workforce development, economic development and health care.

Blas Castañeda of Laredo is chairman of TBC’s Workforce Development committee. Now a consultant, Castañeda worked for Laredo Community College for many years.

Here is the TBC letter:
An Open Letter to congressional appropriators on the need to fund adult basic education, jobs skills and apprenticeship programs:

As Congress nears the beginning of the 2017 fiscal year on October 1, we ask for your support in addressing the need to improve funding for adult basic education, jobs skills and apprenticeship programs. The border must be given proper and adequate education and training funding to continue to train its workforce to be successful in helping to generate business development and job creation.

Adult basic education (ABE) programs that are linked to employment or postsecondary education help low-skilled adult learners advance along a career path, improve their employment and earnings and expand our economy. Despite the demand for these programs, federal investments in ABE serve fewer than 2 million adults annually. These investments have declined by roughly 20 percent since 2005 and the number of individuals served has declined by 1 million since 2000.

We support the House version of the 2017 appropriation as it relates to maintaining funding for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Title I Adult and Youth programs; the Senate bill cut those programs by $33.5 million and $35.4 million respectively. The House version would also increase the state dislocated worker formula grant by $20 million relative to current funding levels. We support the Senate provision that maintains funding for adult education state grants under WIOA Title II and career and technical education state grants under the Perkins Act.

We oppose proposed cuts to apprenticeship grants and suggestion these programs should be boosted. Apprenticeship pairs on-the-job training with classroom instruction, and it’s one of the best ways to prepare workers to participate in the workforce, and to train loyal, skilled employees so businesses compete in today’s economy. Apprenticeship is an important job training mechanism to link workers with middle-skill jobs, keeps economies growing, employers hiring, and people earning more money. Apprenticeship is both a time-tested and innovative strategy for bridging the gap.

Workforce development is an essential component of community economic development in any economic climate. TBC has developed a viable and cohesive model with a wide range of activities, policies and programs employed by our border communities to create, sustain and retain a viable workforce that can support current and future business and industry.

TBC members urge you to support skills training, Adult Basic Education and apprenticeship programs to help close our skill gap today.

Sincerely,

Texas Border Coalition

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying this story shows Laredo Community College transportation technology student Oscar Ortiz utilizing the Hunter Tire Mounting Machine, a recent addition to the college’s automotive technology program. It was donated by Toyota of Laredo. The training tool will benefit LCC automotive technology students, as they experience hands-on learning and gain real-world training to what is similarly found within the automotive industry.