Partnership bridges barriers between welfare dependency, full-time employment

5/15/2001 12:00 AM

A new partnership between TEEX’s Houston Skills Center and the Houston READ Commission is bringing the expertise of two dynamic agencies together to bridge the barrier between people dependent on welfare and long-term, self-sufficient employment.

Workers who cannot read and do not have the specialized training needed to develop new skills are often forced to work in low-wage, service jobs with little hope of advancement.

The new joint literacy and workforce training pilot program was implemented in November 2000 with 26 students. Of the 26 students who started the pilot program, 24 have graduated and moved on to full-time technical training. A second group of 25 students entered the program on April 23.

“Previously, students working on their GED had low morale, and the dropout rate was very high because they couldn’t see where they would go,” said Doug Wehrly, program manager of the Houston Skills Center. “With technical training, students can now see that they have opportunities.”

During the first phase of training, students work toward completing their GED at the READ Commission facility for half of the day. For the other half of the day, students take TEEX classes dealing with basic technical skills, such as safety, rigging, hand tools, power tools and career development. This phase lasts six to 12 weeks and is self-paced.

During the next 12 weeks of training, students receive full-time technical training to prepare them for high-paying, high-demand jobs in information technology, warehouse operations, welding, electrical, back-office clerical, computer operations programs or heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC).

The entire program lasts approximately 18 to 24 weeks. After completing the first two phases of the program, students receive job placement and follow-up assistance from TEEX. Students can also return to TEEX for additional training if needed.

“The READ Commission is very happy and supportive,” said Wehrly. “This is the best project I’ve been involved in.”

The partnership with the Houston READ Commission came about as the result of a meeting with TEEX staff to discuss ways to collaborate with other organizations and leverage scarce resources, said Bob Prock, associate agency director of TEEX. Prock set up an initial meeting with David Wingard of the READ Commission.

“The original concept of the pilot program was actually suggested by Doug Wehrly and fleshed out by various TEEX staffers who understand the hardship and barriers experienced by people who are socially and economically disadvantaged,” Prock added.

“It is the dedication, understanding and experience of our staff that allows us to develop and implement innovative concepts that express a service-oriented approach to workforce development.”

Contact Information

Kathy Fraser

Director of Marketing and Communications

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