By BRIAN SMITH
Weatherford College, Texas Workforce Commission and Perry Equipment Co. (PECOFacet) combined to provide job training for under-skilled or new workers Monday morning.
Texas Workforce Commissioner Representing Employers Tom Pauken presented a $476,076 Skills Development Fund grant check to the college, which will work with Perry Equipment to train 292 new and incumbent workers at the Mineral Wells facility.
More than 20,000 contact hours will be provided by the college to train workers in AutoCAD, welding, safety, facilities, management, professional development and more, according to the college’s workforce training and development coordinator Julie Lundy.
“Partnering with Perry helps us improve our programs,” Lundy said of the 16-month grant, which will last through April 2014. “You have to have a motivated partner in something like this and they are certainly that.”
PECOFacet Vice President of Operations Joe Fiore said the training will be a big help.
“We need a lot of help in our welding area because of the shortage of workers, but several welding fabricators in our area,” Fiore said. “We praise Weatherford College for its vision in getting the grant.”
Fiore said five people have already been trained under the program, which began in December and is the first of many waves of workers whether they be trained at the college or at the facility itself.
“Once workers can get the basics at the college, they can move on and receive more training,” Fore said. “This will help improve the skills of the people we already have on staff and I am proud of my employees for stepping up and wanting to take part.”
Pauken said rebuilding the manufacturing base and dealing with the shortage of skilled workers is something the country needs to do as a whole.
“The age of the average welder right now is 55. The age of the average plumber is 56,” Pauken said. “We’ve neglected to train anyone at the secondary or postsecondary educational level and efforts like this will help fill the void.”
Pauken said the training will also help fill employment rates — in the class of 2011, 50 percent of college graduates here are either underemployed or unemployed.
“We need to work on educational reform and making sure that post secondary training is provided for anyone that needs it or wants it,” Pauken said. “The neglect of vocational training in this country has forced many jobs to go overseas.”
Pauken has worked with Weatherford College in the past, helping to get funds for commercial transport truckers back in 2008.