Socorro Independent School District administrators will be presenting at a congressional briefing in Washington D.C. on a unique partnership between the district’s Community Education and Career and Technical Education departments that is garnering more success and opportunities for adult students and the local workforce.
The initiative is being showcased as a national model and was recently featured in a National Skills Coalition briefing titled “Better Together: How adult education/CTE collaborations benefit workers and business.”
SISD Community Education director Anthony Fraga and Career and Technical Education director George Thomas will meet with the assistant secretary for career, technical, and adult education in the U.S. Department of Education and provide testimony for congressional representatives Feb. 6 in Washington D.C.
Fraga initiated the innovative model in 2015, when the district started offering courses for adult learners in various fields being taught by instructors from SISD’s CTE program. Students enrolled in the district’s adult education program can take free courses to pursue training and earn certifications in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC); electrician pre-apprenticeship, computer repair and maintenance; security services; and office administration.
“The certifications that we offer to our students are on the list of in-demand occupations here in this region,” Fraga said. “After they finish our program, we can turn to our workforce development board and they’ll provide us opportunities for our students to interview with employers.”
Since the inception of the program, demand for the courses has increased steadily with the department exceeding their state target of 76 students for Integrated Education and Training (IET). In the most recent year, the department served 184 adult students in IET easily doubling that target.
Across the nation, the focus is on increasing the skills of workers to meet the needs of the workforce, which is what SISD is achieving, Fraga said.
“Our program is focused on getting students completed with the certification program or to transition to college,” he said. “We put them on a career pathway now.”
State and national leaders are looking at the SISD model to show other districts and communities how to integrate existing funds and resources to benefit both students and employers, which came about from the strong interpersonal relationships and teamwork that is well established in Team SISD, Fraga said.
Thomas agrees that the partnership was a natural for Team SISD, where departments regularly work together to solve problems and develop systems to better serve the community.
“For our partnership to be used as an example of a national model is a very proud moment for me,” Thomas said. “Mr. Fraga and the adult education office has done a wonderful job in recruiting and placing the adults in programs that they have a true interest in.”
As part of SISD’s commitment to highly prepare students for college and career success, the CTE program invests significantly in teacher training, equipment and software. The collaboration allows the adult education program to use CTE resources, such as teachers, labs, and equipment, to provide certification training at a lower cost with higher student success.
The successful partnership has contributed to a cost savings of some 70 percent compared to contract vendors, allows for more than three times participation in the adult ed programs, and has yielded a certification rate for the adult learners of nearly 100 percent.