New skilled trade certification program helps fill workforce needs in Round Rock

Community Impact: New skilled trade certification program helps fill workforce needs in Round Rock

By Kirby Killough   | 5:09 am May 14, 2018

Last year a group of local organizations formed a partnership to address a workforce need in Round Rock. Less than six months later, 15 people were certified and employed in a skilled trade, and about 30 more are on the same path.

After seeing a need for certified heating, ventilation and air conditioning, or HVAC, technicians, the Round Rock Chamber partnered with Austin Community College and Round Rock ISD to create an accelerated learning program.

Chip Chambliss, president of AiRCO Mechanical in Round Rock, is experiencing the skilled trade workforce need firsthand.

“[Skilled trade jobs] are getting steadily higher and higher in demand,” Chambliss said. “There is  a severe shortage of skilled labor folks with any relevant experience. We are understaffed and can’t hire quickly enough.”

Chambliss said one of the challenges his company has faced is the difficulty of recruiting people to skilled trade professions.

“People would rather go sit in an office making $30,000 per year rather than be a service plumber making twice that amount,” Chambliss said.

According to the TWC, HVAC technician jobs will see an anticipated growth of 25 percent in the next five to eight years. Plumbing jobs will see an anticipated growth of 24 percent in the same time frame.

In Williamson County employment numbers for plumbing and HVAC contractors nearly doubled between 2012 and 2017, according to the TWC.

“This is representative of the massive growth that we are seeing

in our community,” said Amy Mizcles, vice president of community enhancement for the Round Rock Chamber. “We’re doing what we can to make sure we are training the workforce that is needed.”

ACC helps the chamber recruit students and provides instructors, curriculum and equipment for the certification courses, according to Hector Aguilar, ACC executive dean of continuing education.

RRISD donated space at Round Rock High School for the program to hold classes. In exchange, a quarter of the seats in each class are given to district employees or students.

Workforce Solutions Rural Capital Area, or WSRCA, also stepped in to help by funding 100 percent of the tuition for qualifying students.

The first program began in October of 2017. All 15 of the participants completed the four-month program and found jobs with nine companies that signed on to the program. Chambliss is in the process of interviewing one of those program graduates. The second iteration of the HVAC certification course is underway with 18 students.

“We have seen a surge of interest; there are so many people interested in the HVAC class,” Mizcles said.

Aguilar said that in addition to HVAC, the chamber also had companies who could not find employees to fill plumbing jobs, so they created an accelerated certification class for plumbing.

The first class of the plumbing certification program took place April 17 with 11 students. Three companies have already signed on to consider the participants for employment upon completion of the program.

Mizcles said these courses are typically 24 months long, but the chamber and ACC were able to condense the courses to four months.

“The purpose of these programs is to get people that are unemployed or underemployed into a good job as soon as possible,” Aguilar said. “These programs are very hands-on, very short and immediately connect students to employers.”

Aguilar said that because of funding from WSRCA, economically disadvantaged students are able to get certification and find careers.

“We have companies that are struggling to meet customer needs because they can’t take orders because they don’t have people to do the work. Then we have people that are unemployed or underemployed at the other end of the spectrum that want to work,” Aguilar said. “It’s a win-win situation.”

Aguilar and Mizcles said they hope to see the program continue to grow.

“We want to continue to bring these accelerated learning programs to people in our community because we want to make sure we are addressing the needs in the workforce and want to address future needs,” Mizcles said.



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