MCALLEN, Texas – South Texas College is close to securing approval from the Department of Labor for a first-of-its-kind apprenticeship program for those wishing to become registered nurses. 

Julian Alvarez, the labor representative on the Texas Workforce Commission, said he spoke with DoL officials about the program on a recent visit to the White House. 

“As you know, just recently, I was at the White House where we were talking about what we were doing with apprenticeship programs. And we were very fortunate that I had an opportunity to talk to the Department of Labor about some of the specifics that were in the (STC) application,” Alvarez said, in a video interview with the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service


In his interview, Alvarez pointed out that between now and 2032, Texas is going to be short 57,000 registered nurses.

Alvarez was at the White House due to being appointed a national Apprentice Ambassador. He gave his interview to the Guardian at a recent TWC conference on apprenticeships that was held at the McAllen Convention Center. He said the level of interest in the conference was overwhelming. It was the first time TWC had held a conference south of San Antonio. 

“We were overwhelmed by the response. We had people not only from Texas attending, but from other parts of the country. They came in and wanted to hear a little bit more about apprenticeship programs and starting one up,” Alvarez said.

“What better place to do it than in South Texas College where right now we are working on the standards in registered nursing, BSN, LVN, putting them through an apprenticeship program. So we submitted the application. We’re hoping soon that the Department of Labor approves it so that South Texas College could be the first college in the country that will be offering an apprenticeship program in this type of skill. So we’re excited.”

Alvarez said that in order to have an apprenticeship program in nursing, apprentices would have 2,000 hours of on-the-job training. 

“And so we are on the cutting edge here at South Texas College, working closely with Dr. (David) Plummer, Dr. (Carlos) Margo about putting a program together that’s going to be the first in the state. But that required a lot of work. So DHR is involved, as is Valley Baptist. It took a lot of work,” Alvarez explained.

“We had to look at the curriculum. The Department of Labor had to be involved. Higher Ed had to be involved. And, of course, Dr. Cooper, who’s with the Board of Nursing, was involved in those discussions. So this has been going on for over a year and a half.”

Alvarez said TWC’s initial meeting on the subject of an apprenticeship program for nurses took place at DHR Health. He said Jayson T. Valerio, dean of nursing and allied health at STC, presented the likely curriculum.

“I asked my fellow (TWC) commissioners if they would allow me to use $10 million to actually pay students here in the Rio Grande Valley for their clinical work, which has never been done. So students now, while they’re doing their clinicals, are going to actually get paid. That was one of the obstacles from students wanting to go into the healthcare industry,” Alvarez said.

Alvarez said approval for the apprenticeship program in nursing will have to come from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Texas Board of Nursing. 

“There’s been a lot of work behind it. We are this close to actually making an announcement, hopefully during National Apprenticeship Week in November: that South Texas College will be awarded the distinction of being one of the first colleges, if not the first college, in the country, to offer registered nursing as an apprenticeship.”

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