DOL awards over $9 million to San Jacinto College to train 1,200 unemployed for work

10.27.2014 | By Jeannie Peng-Armao

The U.S. Department of Labor has awarded a $9,294,620 Ready to Work Partnership grant to San Jacinto College to train approximately 1,200 people for work in middle skills occupations across the Texas Gulf Coast region.

This grant is part of a $170 million federal grant to expedite the employment of Americans struggling with long-term unemployment. The Ready to Work grant at San Jacinto College will provide tuition money to students pursuing associate degrees, college certificates, and industry-recognized certifications for high-demand careers in industries like petrochemical. The grant also will allow the College to work with industry partners to offer students paid internships.

"This is about getting money into households as soon as possible," said Roberta Wright, San Jacinto College grant writer. "Many people do not have the funds to pay for training, particularly for noncredit training for certifications, which is not always covered by traditional financial aid. We really felt like we needed to make it possible for people to go to school and get the training they need so that they can get out quickly and start working."

Sometimes, all it takes is the right certificate for middle skills workers to back on their feet. Middle skills workers are those who need more education or training than a high school diploma but less than a baccalaureate degree. For example, an aerospace engineer with a master's degree may need a project management certificate to give him or her the right skill to gain employment in another industry. Welding companies keep an eye out for specific industry-recognized certificates that accompany an applicant's education.

Focusing on training for middle skills workers in an industry, like petrochemical, benefits the entire workforce from the top down. The targeted H-1B industries and occupations for the Ready to Work Partnership grant include engineers of various types employed in the petrochemical industry, process operators, instrument technicians, first-level supervisors in petrochemical facilities, and other middle skills STEM occupations that use H-1B visas.

"Everyone knows there is a huge retirement bubble coming, especially in the Houston region," said Wright. "The average age of a petrochemical employee is almost 55 years old. Some people would say that what we have is a retirement cliff. We aim to train the next group of supervisors and top-level management. In result, this will open up more opportunity for people seeking those entry-level positions. So, the impact of a grant like this one is huge."

San Jacinto College was awarded an H-1B grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, also known as the Information Technology Training for Tomorrow (IT3) grant, two years ago to train veterans, long-term unemployed, and incumbent workers in cybersecurity. In August, U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez visited San Jacinto College to tour facilities and talk with students training for high-demand careers. The new U.S. Department of Labor Ready to Work grant focuses on the long-term unemployed with an emphasis on the workforce needs of the petrochemical industry. San Jacinto College serves as the lead institution for the grant. Partnering colleges include Brazosport College, College of the Mainland, and Lee College.

"As higher education institutions, it is our responsibility to deliver the training people need to obtain the marketable skills that directly result in job placement," said Dr. Sarah Janes, San Jacinto College vice president of Continuing and Professional Development. "Our region holds so much talent with many who have a tremendous amount of workforce experience in industries from petrochemical to aerospace to health care. With this Ready to Work Partnership grant, we'll make sure they have the credentials they need to enter into a new career and advance within our surrounding industries."

About San Jacinto College
Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for more than 50 years. As an Achieving the Dream Leader College, San Jacinto College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of approximately 30,000 credit students. The College offers 186 degrees and certificates, with 46 technical programs and a university transfer division. Students benefit from a support system that maps out a pathway for success, and job training programs that are renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $690 million each year to the Texas workforce.

For more information about San Jacinto College, please call 281-998-6150, visit, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.