McAllen ISD students to earn paid job training, college credit through innovative partnership

MCALLEN, TEXAS (Oct. 31, 2018) - Coming from a family of mechanics, Aaron Martinez recalls his introduction to automotive repair at an early age. Since his father and grandfather worked for Ford and Chevrolet dealerships, Aaron remembers assisting them with everything from brake repairs to oil changes and transmissions.


That experience shaped his future career choice, he said. Now thanks to an innovative apprenticeship program created through a partnership with South Texas College, the McAllen Chamber of Commerce and McAllen Independent School District, Aaron, 17, has secured an internship with Boggus Ford in McAllen.


Hoping to gain experience within the dealership’s automotive repair shop, Aaron, who currently attends McAllen High School, says he is one step closer to beginning his career as a third-generation automotive technician.


“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me. I have never experienced anything like this,” he said. “I hope to work in the shop and build up my knowledge of cars when it comes to their performance and how they go together.” 


STC in partnership with the McAllen Chamber and McAllen ISD’s Youth Apprenticeship Program held a ceremonial signing day for students entering apprenticeship agreements and work contracts Oct. 31.


Students will now begin work in a variety of McAllen businesses gaining experience and possible network connections for future careers.


“This is a new strategy for workforce development in the Valley,” said STC President Dr. Shirley A. Reed. “It has been used in other parts of the country, but we are bringing it to the Valley. This is an opportunity for a high school student to have a mentor and work with a top-notch employer, get credit for some technical classes, and actually be employed 15 to 20 hours.


“Our mission is always student success, it is always contributing to the economic development of the region, and contributing to families,” Dr. Reed said. “A good life begins with a good job.”   


Participating McAllen businesses in the first ever event included Santa Fe Steakhouse, The Monitor, House Wine and Bistro, SALT New American Table, DoubleTree Hotel, Clark Chevrolet, Boggus Ford, and Atlas Electrical, Air Conditioning, Refrigeration, and Plumbing Services Inc.


More than 65 students participated in the interview process, and business owners seeking “top notch” talent from among high schools in McAllen selected only 15. Students were originally selectively recruited by MISD CTE staff, and then had the opportunity to listen to presentations from each of the businesses.


They were then able to choose which of the businesses to interview with. Businesses then selected students from among those who interviewed with them. 


“I came into this program looking for an opportunity to impart some culinary knowledge on students interested in the field, and after interviewing dozens of them, I realized quickly that we had a special group that is uniquely prepared,” said chef Larry Delgado, owner of Salt and House Wine as well as chairman of the board for the McAllen Chamber.


“The professionalism of these students has just shown right through,” Delgado said. “I feel these students can be great ambassadors for our brand and help us continue to build that in McAllen.”


The youth apprenticeships are a collaborative effort intended to provide college instruction and paid, on-the-job training for students who are enrolled in STC’s U.S. Department of Labor Registered Apprenticeship Program.


While participating in the program, students take classes at STC while working on the job alongside a mentor. These students are also compensated as they work to receive a U.S. Department of Labor credential as a result of the training program.


“This is something that is going to set you apart from the majority of the workforce in the United States, and you are going to be part of an elite group who will eventually become journey workers,” Dr. Carlos Margo, STC Associate Dean of Industry Training and Economic Development told students at the ceremony. “You will be certified by the US Department of Labor, and it starts the day you start working with your respective employers and the first day you take a class at STC and will continue even after you graduate high school.”


MISD’s Youth Apprenticeship Program is the first of its kind in the region. MISD administrators say the program fills the critical gap between college and the workforce, allowing students to gain essential skills even as high school juniors and seniors.


McAllen ISD Superintendent Dr. J.A. Gonzalez says the apprenticeship program is one of the finest programs he has seen in over 21 years as an educator.


“South Texas College is a very progressive college, and in working with Dr. Reed and Dr. Margo and our chamber of commerce, we came together to create this opportunity for students,” Gonzalez said. “We are excited to be working together, and all of our business leaders who came forward are a key component so we are very proud of the opportunities we are providing for these students.


“It’s just one big team effort and one big vision, and we are going to keep it growing,” Gonzalez said. “There are so many people working to make this happen so when you look at this apprenticeship program it’s going to give people opportunities to learn on the job and build relationships with these business owners.”