Texas A&M University-San Antonio launched a $6.7 million partnership with Workforce Solutions Alamo and Ready to Work San Antonio to encourage students who may have had to abandon their studies to complete their degrees and land jobs in growing industries.
The Ready to Work program is an education and job placement program sponsored by the city of San Antonio designed to help residents of San Antonio improve their quality of life. The program will be based out of the Mays Center for Experiential Learning and Community Engagement at A&M-San Antonio.
Participants of the program must be at least 18 years old, completed at least 30 credit hours, be permitted to work in the U.S., be residents of San Antonio and cannot be currently enrolled in school.
Degree programs offered through Ready to Work include biology, child development, general business, cybersecurity, finance, computer science, english and information technology.
Clarissa Tejeda, director of employer relations and community outreach within the Mays Center said participants must have a “willingness” to work and complete the program.
Tejeda is overseeing the Ready to Work program within the Mays Center.
“It is a really intentional program,” Tejeda said.
The program was launched on the five-year celebration of the Mays Center for Experiential Learning on Oct. 14.
The deal was signed by A&M-San Antonio President Cynthia Teniente-Matson, executive director of Workforce Solutions Mike Ramsey and CEO of Workforce Solutions Alamo Adrian Lopez.
Rebecca Viagran, the director of workforce development and community partnerships out of the president’s office at A&M-San Antonio said the university will be acting as a subcontractor through the Mays Center with Alamo Workforce.
Prime contractors of the program are Workforce Solutions, Alamo Colleges, Project Quest and Restore Education.
A&M-San Antonio is the only four-year public university that is an official partner with funding in the program.
“We knew we had to bring access to completion of a four-year degree,” Viagran said. “Where else better than the southern sector of San Antonio?”
The university will be performing an “intake and assessment” of students that are interested in the program.
“If they qualify or if they are eligible, and they have some college hours we will be in turn the case manager for those participants,” Viagran said.
Case management would include: help with career navigation, enrolling in classes at A&M-San Antonio or any of the other institutions partnered with Workforce and landing a job in one of the target industries for which the program offers a degree.
Viagran said the university is expecting to have at least 50 participants a month in the Ready to Work program, which may come from direct walk-ins or individuals referred from Workforce Solutions.
In the five years the program is sponsored, Tejeda said the Mays Center expects to help 1,250 participants through intake and processing and another 1,000 through case management.
“Our target is really about socioeconomic mobility,” Viagran said. “It’s all about breaking cycles of poverty and also giving opportunity and access to people that maybe just needed a little bit of help.”
At the end of the program, participants must be placed in a job that pays at least $15 an hour within one of the program’s targets industries.
The funding for the program comes from an initiative voted on in Nov. 2021 that allocated a portion of the sales tax for the program.
The total funding from the sales tax was $250 million and $6.7 million went towards A&M-San Antonio as a subcontractor of the program.
The money will go towards staffing for the program, wrap-around services, emergency services and last-minute tuition assistance, Viagran said.
“These are taxpayer dollars, so there’s a lot of scrutiny and a lot of accountability,” Viagran said. “Their tax dollars are being used to increase socioeconomic mobility.”
Ramsey, who is overseeing the Ready to Work program, stressed the importance of economic mobility for the people of San Antonio and how it has become the overarching goal of the program.
“San Antonio is the seventh largest city in the United States, but we have the highest poverty rate,” Ramsey said.
Ramsey attributed the poverty rate to San Antonio’s low educational attainment rate and said that 25% of the people who live in San Antonio have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Ramsey said A&M-San Antonio’s “commitment to the community” has set them apart from other four-year universities that have often “shunned” entering into workforce development.
“My biggest hope is that employers will have access to local talent,” Ramsey said. “As the economy of San Antonio rises, everybody is participating in that prosperity and have access to family-sustaining jobs.”
For more information, visit the Mays Center Room 111 in the Science and Technology Building or call them at 210-784-1356.
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 3:26 p.m. Nov. 23, 2022, to correct Rebecca Viagran’s last name.