NPT Capitol: $10 million grant for IAF job training
News release received by NPT:
Texas IAF Network to hold press conference with Comptroller Susan Combs on passage of Workforce Legislation
The Network of Texas IAF Organizations will hold a press conference with Comptroller Susan Combs on June 11th at 1:30pm in the Senate Conference room at the Capitol to recognize their work together to pass legislation creating a $10 million competitive state grant program to invest in strengthening the skills of Texas workers. “Although the economic crisis has been less severe in El Paso, training local workers for local jobs is the best investment we can make right now,” said Rev. James Hall, a Co-chair of EPISO (the El Paso Interreligious Sponsoring Organization) and a leader with the Texas IAF Network.
HB 1935 (Rep. Villarreal/Sen. Duncan) and HB 3 (Sen. Shapiro/Rep. Eissler) both create the Comptroller’s $25 million JET (Jobs and Education for Texans) Fund, which includes this $10 million for grants to innovative and successful workforce development programs which train unemployed and underemployed workers for in-demand jobs. Representative Mike Villarreal worked with COPS/Metro Alliance and the entire Texas IAF Network and the Comptroller’s office to create a state fund to match local city and county investments in initiatives such as Project ARRIBA, a workforce development project created by EPISO, Border Interfaith and the El Paso business community. This legislation was also folded into HB 3, the public school accountability bill.
These bills had broad bi-partisan support in a session in which many other efforts failed. The entire El Paso legislative delegation was united in their support of these bills. “We are glad that our delegation and legislators in both parties saw the importance of this legislation,” said Patricia Benitez, a Co-chair of Border Interfaith. “We consider this legislation to be a new GI Bill, which takes underemployed Texans and prepares them for jobs in our changing economy,” said Ms. Benitez.
In her Texas Works report, released in December 2008, State Comptroller Susan Combs cites the Texas IAF workforce projects as examples of successful strategies for workforce development. The Comptroller has personally visited several of these projects, which include Project QUEST, VIDA in the Rio Grande Valley, Capital IDEA in Austin, and ARRIBA in El Paso. These projects, on average, triple the earnings of low-income adults to $30,718 with benefits and a career path. Job retention rates average 92.8%. More than 9,000 adults have been placed in jobs through these projects.
“The money appropriated for JET funding is an investment that will return economic and social dividends for years to come, and the grants for innovative and successful programs are essential because of the positive potential impact they have on the state,” Combs said.
The JET Fund provides matching money to successful non-profit organizations that train low-income adults for in-demand jobs. These non-profits must partner with community colleges and demonstrate above average performance in graduation rates and successful completion of remediation.
“This legislation, which matches local dollars from the city and county of El Paso, is recognition that successful strategies like Capital IDEA, QUEST, VIDA, and ARRIBA work. There are shortages of nurses and medical technicians around the state at a time when unemployment is increasing. This legislation will target state investment to proven programs that train workers in these, and other in-demand fields” said Fr. Hall, of EPISO and a founding board member of Project ARRIBA. “This is economic development that addresses Texas’ need for a well-trained workforce.”