BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Texas Southmost College President Dr. Jesús Roberto Rodríguez says he would put his workforce development team up against any other in the state. 

Heading that team is Joseph Fleishman, associate vice president for workforce training at TSC. 

Both gave the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service an interview at a recent ribbon-cutting ceremony for new pipe fitter and diesel mechanic training programs.

Rodríguez said when that when some companies contact the college looking for trained workers they are startled to learn just what a professional operation TSC has in place. By way of an analogy he referenced a cult movie from the 1990s. 

“Did you ever see the movie, My Cousin Vinny? Cousin Vinny, an attorney, comes from New Jersey, a big shot, comes to this little town down south. Once he goes into that courtroom he realizes what he is up against. Look at that judge. Lord. I feel a lot of folks are coming down, or used to come down, to Texas Southmost College. Oh, a little college, right? But once they are here they see this powerhouse. We have the best workforce team in the state. Period. I would put them up against anybody.”

Rodríguez, who used to work in the maquiladora industry, says his workforce development team knows what industry needs. “We have been in industry, we talk their language, we can gauge where they are coming from, and we can build the program they want.”

He also said he gets great support from the TSC board of trustees. “My board cuts out the red tape for me. Because they are about ‘now.’ It is a different mindset. So when they (different companies) come in, it is like, oh these guys get it.”

Fleishman concurred.

“Here’s the thing that we don’t tell our competition. We’re not waiting for industry to come here. They are already here.”

He gave an example of a company that was in urgent need of pipe fitters. The company explained that 15,000 pipe fitters are needed across the nation, with 8,000 to 9,000 needed in Texas. TSC was able to help.

Another example was a company looking for diesel mechanics. “The company wants to start an apprenticeship program with us. Our employees will be hired by the company in an apprenticeship program. They can hire all of them. We are getting companies coming in saying, we need three, five, ten. They are here now.”

Rodríguez said when the workers leave TSC they are instantly employable.

“When they leave us they can get a job and hit the ground running. They are not going to hurt themselves or anyone else. They are going to be productive citizens, productive employees.”

And, Rodríguez said, the workers are willing to travel.

“This community is not geographically challenged, which means Joe is here and he is looking for a scaffolding job. He’s not afraid to go to Ohio and get the job. But Joe’s family stays behind and that paycheck comes back home. And the family are consumers. So our sales tax goes up.”

Fleishman said TSC as a memorandum of understanding with a company that needs 500 welders, 500 pipe fitters and 500 structural fitters right now. 

“And that is just one. We have another company that wants 500 scaffold builders. They are saying to us, we’re going to hire these individuals, we’re going to recruit them, we’re going to send them through the college, you are going to train them for two weeks and then we are going to go to put them to work all over the country. It is a whole new ball park.”

So what was happening before Rodríguez got to TSC and assembled his workforce development team, the president was asked. 

Rodríguez responded: “Nothing. I came in from Houston and looked at the small investment. We had the space, we had all pieces in place. It was like having all the instruments but no sheet of music.”

Fleishman said he had another great story to tell. 

“A few weeks ago we graduated 42 welders. We graduate welders all the time. So this time we had 42 welders and our industry partners called us and said, we’d like to come up and offer them jobs. So this company came in from Corpus Christi, they met they all 42 welders and they offered employment to all 42 welders, with a starting salary was $25 an hour with benefits and 401K.”

Fleishman said there was another company looking for welders.

“They interviewed all 42 and offered them employment. Their starting salary was $30 a hour. But instead of offering benefits, they offered $100 per diem, per day. And, there was a third company that came in and offered them employment as well. So, in one week, our graduates, one week before they graduated, had three job offers to pick from. That’s where we are today. So when we say industry is here now, our relationships are (in place) now, and now we’re leveraging those relationships to help put our people to work.”

Fleishman then told a story about TSC’s fork lift training program. 

“Our fork lift program started last Monday, 17 people. The industry folks have been here. They know there are 17 individuals here and have built them into their national staffing model. They will be here on Thursday to offer employment to all 17. So, when they graduate on Friday they will be moving Ohio for the next six months.”

He added: “So, this is where we are today. Industry is here, hiring our people before they have graduated and they are going straight to work.”

Adela G. Garza chairs the board of trustees for TSC. Garza said that when Rodríguez comes to the board for money for a new program she sees it as a great investment. She said she knows the program has been thoroughly researched before it comes to the board. “Coming to events like this ribbon-cutting ceremony energizes me. Please continue to tell our story. We have a great story to tell.”

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