By: Sarah Snyder
BIG SPRING - New classes, new skills, and a big change for the local workforce. A new partnership in Big Spring is offering career training to keep kids in school and to beef up the workforce.
"It's an opportunity that's going to benefit our local industry as well as new industry," Terry Wegman, Director of the Big Spring Economic Development Corporation. "It's going to be a great thing for our community and hopefully for our kids too."
During the last meeting, Economic Development handed Howard College a $220,000 grant for the Workforce Development Program adding welding, heavy equipment training, along with electric and hydraulic technology to the school roster.
"The curriculum, the skills, are all developed from what local needs are," Wegman said. "As well as skills that are going to be needed for new industry like the wind industry."
Howard College trains workers at the VA hospital, Alon, and numerous other local industries. Now they expect those classes to double.
"It will increase our student base," Tom Land, Director of Workforce Training at Howard College said. "The more students we have, the better we're doing. It's just a win win."
"That's a big part of what we do," Wegman said. "Not only attracting business, but training workforce as well as retaining employees."
College officials tell NewsWest 9,the most important part of this venture is that it will encourage dual credit high school kids to stay in school after they graduate.
"I know there's a lot of kids out there that are saying, 'I need something else.' That's what we want to do," Land said. "Not everybody wants to go to college, so we're here to provide a place for them to learn a trade, a skill."
The new program offers not only vocational training, but allows students to earn an Associate's Degree then transfer to another University. Howard College plans to bring in a host of new instructors and attract new students resulting in big growth for the campus.
"The skills that we are going to be training at Howard College are going to be transferrable from oil to the wind industry, to manufacturing to all different aspects of business," Wegman said.
Howard College plans to begin the welding program within the next two months. And as the rest of the equipment comes in, they'll open up courses in electric and hydraulics then by the middle of next year, they'll begin teaching students how to operate heavy machinery.