HOUSTON - The new year started with more than 7 million open jobs, in the country, but many go unfilled because there aren't enough qualified people. While the 'skilled-labor shortage' has been an ongoing problem, a unique local program looks to find a solution that 'creates' the people they need.
On a warm February morning, crews from Aggreko are hard at work, in an NRG parking lot, setting up the power-needs for the upcoming rodeo cook-off celebration. When they're done, the dozens of generators and miles of cable will carry enough power to light a small town.
Students are part of the crew, studying in a fast-track program that trains them to do the work permanently. Student Chance Romero says, "It's quick school; quick work; on the job training; just everything I needed, all in one."
Aggreko's North American operations are based in Houston, providing temporary power and temperature-control to a variety of projects. To help meet it's workforce needs, the company has partnered with San Jacinto College to teach people willing to roll-up their sleeves and get their hands dirty learning a specialized skill.
Training supervisor Rapheal Mondragon says it's hard, challenging work. "You have to understand how refrigeration works, how power generation works, compressed air; So there's a lot of bookwork that needs to be done and skills that need to be fine-tuned," says Mondragon.
The payoff, after 12 months of successful study, is a guaranteed job with the company and a skill in vital demand, with no end in sight. "The trades are what run this country," says San Jacinto College's Durrell Dickens.
For those who do succeed, it's the perfect opportunity where others may not have been available. "I had some friends go through the program and I saw them progressing, so I followed their footsteps," says student Edgar Gonzalez, "I see a future in this company."
So far, 145 students have graduated from the Agrekko program, with more classes set to begin. For some, it's too good an opportunity to pass up. "I know people that have graduated college, that are still looking for work six months after graduation," says student Triston Palmature, "I graduate, and I immediately go to work. I look at it as a big positive."