The Greater East End Management District is committed to supporting workforce training opportunities by working with East End education institutions and other entities. The District has a partnership with SER Jobs for Progress, a workforce education and training organization dedicated to helping match East End employers with skilled workers. Between May, 2012 and March, 2013, SER served more than 285 East End residents with services ranging from service navigation to career coaching, job readiness to job placement, and more. Of those East End clients, 92 participated in workforce training, and at least 60 are currently employed.
Several years ago, SER began to notice a trend: local employers could never seem to find enough qualified welders to meet their business demands.
Despite the high-earning potential of a welding career, many SER clients faced many obstacles if they chose to pursue welding credentials: clients didn’t know how to get started; few training programs existed in the region, especially in the East End; most programs were conducted through employers, which left employees without credentials if they switched jobs; and courses at local community colleges or trade schools took extended periods of time to complete, and were cost prohibitive.
To address these challenges, SER decided to take action by converting its existing green training lab on Wayside Dr. from a hands-on green construction, weatherization, and other green-collar job training site, complete with mockups of homes to Houston’s newest welding lab.
The initial investment from the Greater East End Management District provided the seed funding to make launching SER’s welding training program a reality.Through a collaborative partnership with the Department of Labor, United Way of Greater Houston, Houston Community College, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, and others, SER was able to leverage the GEEMD’s initial $45,000 contribution to obtain the nearly $500,000 total needed to start up and operate the welding program.
Furthermore, thanks to leveraged resources, SER was able to serve East End residents with a wide variety of workforce development services and occupational training.
GREEN JOBS TRAINING-East End green jobs and workers impact Houston by Julie Bonnin
For every national initiative to stimulate green building, for every energy leader encouraging Houston businesses to expand what it means to be called “the energy capitol of the world,” the reality of making it happen comes down to this: finding construction workers who can implement or in some cases fabricate the new technology.
Without laborers, the green ideas remain just that. One of the most exciting economic development tools happening in the Greater East End Management District involves training East End workers – some just out of high school and others with years of construction experience — to install solar screens, make existing buildings energy efficient and build green from the ground up.
The training takes place at SER—Jobs for Progress of the Texas Gulf Coast, located in a building next to the Port of Houston. In a large, open classroom filled with construction materials and work tables, the newest green job skills are taught, and students are being hired and dispatched to jobs in the East End and throughout greater Houston.
Rey Guera, director of Energy Programs at PMG, has hired numerous graduates from the program. Last year, 90 percent of his new hires came from SER, he says. The need for skilled workers is on the rise, and SER is helping to meet that demand, he says.
“Houston is very much in the forefront on this green movement. There are only a couple of companies who do it, but it is absolutely booming,” Guerra says.
PMG’s projects range from residential to commercial, from low-income weatherization projects supported by the City of Houston to high end construction that draws on the latest technologies.
SER currently teaches basic green construction and painting, weatherization, heating, ventilating and air conditioning and installation of solar panels. The training, funded by a Department of Labor grant, has the potential to change students’ lives for the better, in addition to making a positive environmental impact, says SER Director Nory Angel. “You are training someone with skills that are going to put them on a career path as opposed to staying in a dead end job,” she says.
An added benefit beyond making a worker more marketable is that many may wind up applying these new skills in their own homes and neighborhoods.
“On a personal level I think people are having a paradigm shift with how they see green and how it applies to their life and how it applies to their own pocket,” Angel says. “The idea that we can make small changes in our own lives and have the potential to have a large impact is definitely catching on.”
Angel hopes that word spreads about the City of Houston-CenterPoint Energy program to provide weatherization to low-income citizens’ homes for free. Not only will the improvements help cut utility bills and increase property values, the work will help ensure the need for SER-trained workers will increase. Already, 600-plus graduates have finished their training, and many of them have been hired. Companies can contract directly with SER to train existing workers as well.
Greater East End Management District president Diane Schenke said the SER training is vital to the area’s growth and development. “It’s important to get the workforce ready for future development and to help local businesses jumpstart a new phase of revitalization that benefits everyone,” she says.”