Oil Boom in Texas Leads to Trade Education Renaissance

Last year, the Laredo ISD pioneered  a program that took advantage of the oil and gas boon in south Texas and put practical meaning to college and career readiness at the Sabas Perez Engineering Magnet School, located at Cigarroa High.

At the time, Laredo ISD career and technical director Cynthia Sanchez told the San Antonio Express-News that the district took the leading in preparing students with the "proper job training skills needed to meet the region's needs" created by Eagle Ford in the oil and gas industry in south Texas.

However, that is not all they did. Laredo ISD created a unique opportunity for high schoolers to study engineering, hydraulic pneumatics and electricity, according to the San Antonio Business Journal.  Students who partake and complete the program graduate with up to 12 hours of dual credit from Laredo Community College. The program also offers a student different pathways to explore. This could lead towards certification as an oil and gas specialist or propel a student to pursue a petroleum engineering higher education degree, an opportunity that a student may not otherwise have had.

But Laredo is not the only school district taking advantage of a good situation. Alice ISD, located in the comparatively smaller south Texas town of Alice, approximately 85 miles from Laredo, is also taking advantage of that same boom. 

On April 13, Velma Soliz-Garcia, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum & Instruction Career & Technical Education, Technology and District Coordinator of School Improvement, announced that three new courses will be added to the 2014-2015 syllabus--instrumentation, electrical, and pipefitting.

The courses have been formed in collaboration with the Craft Training Center (CTC) of the Coastal Bend in Corpus Christi and nearby Coastal Bend College (CBC), according to the article. CTC offers hands-on training courses to the community.  They are fully accredited through the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER), according to the CTC website.

The new 14 week courses will be offered across the three regular session school semesters as evening classes from 6-9pm, twice a week, according to Alice24-7.com.

The article also states that this opportunity was the "result of teachers listening to their students in a middle and high school survey" in which these young people were asked what courses they would be interested in taking at school.

"The response was overwhelming," Alice24-7.com reported. Thus, the district secured the curriculum that students requested in the engineering, oil and gas fields.

Like Laredo ISD, Alice ISD will offer two types of the same program, one for job accreditation, the other for college credits.

"The courses with the CTC will be offered to Alice High School students, as well as students from San Diego, Benavides, Freer, and Ben Bolt-Palito Blanco," Garcia told the local news outlet.  She added that “if there were additional spaces available, community members will be offered to take these courses."

The collaboration with the CBC will offer college credit-bearing courses that include Principles of Oil and Gas Production, Raster-Based Geographic Information Systems, and Oil and Gas Production Systems I and II, according to the article.  These credits will lead towards a two-year junior college Associates degree.

Alice ISD hopes to add more dual credit courses for high school students in such areas as robotics, gaming, web design, and animation.  Interestingly, out of the 736 surveyed, 370 students expressed a strong interest in the culinary arts.  Garcia is looking in high quality hands-on training.

"This is a good opportunity for our kids to received dual credits and the school foots the bill.  According to Alice24-7.com, she also said "We want our kids to be excited about their education."

Other than personal interest in taking the courses, Everett said there were no pre-qualifications to enroll. 

Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom


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