STAFFORD (Covering Fort Bend News) – A diverse coalition of industry and government representatives recently pledged support to a Houston Community College’s Southwest initiative to create a robust pipeline of employees for the manufacturing sector in Fort Bend County and the greater Houston area.
More than a dozen area industry representatives, economic development council leaders, and elected officials gathered at HCC Stafford campus to explore how HCC can enhance its role as a top supplier of skilled manufacturing workers for local companies.
“The HCC advanced manufacturing program strives to serve the most critical needs of the manufacturing industry,” said Dr. Madeline Burillo-Hopkins, HCC Southwest president. “We are working to fulfill our mission to strengthen the community we serve by helping our students secure good-paying jobs in the field.”
The roundtable was held to gather input from manufacturing company representatives, education advocates, and area economic development officials. Dr. Ritu Raju, interim dean of HCC Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence, said industry experts can bring insight on industry needs and help with the college’s effort to develop curricula and strategies to boost the enrollment of students in the manufacturing discipline and connect them to local job opportunities.
Manufacturing companies are plentiful in Houston and Fort Bend County, where a concentration is seen in the city of Stafford, home to the HCC Stafford campus and the Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence.
“Let’s take advantage of the tremendous manufacturing network we have here,” Stafford Mayor Leonard Scarcella said. “Let’s create a conduit for the students in this area to receive an excellent education and to be part of a competent, highly trained workforce for our companies.”
“While certain skills sought after by the industry often lack the curricula of four-year universities, HCC can fill the gap by offering the needed training,” said Paul Fenley, president and chief operations officer of Atec, a Stafford-based aerospace and energy engineering and manufacturing company.
Fort Bend County Judge K.P. George said that affordability is another strength of HCC.
“Education is very expensive, and here you have a solution. Many young people don’t know such opportunities exist,” said George, whose daughter is a product of a community college. “Education is very close to my heart. I’m here to help because what you do is life-changing.”
“HCC Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence is poised to be a primary generator of manufacturing talent in the region,” said Burillo-Hopkins. “The center offers industry-accredited programs in technology-infused manufacturing leading to associate degrees or certificates.”
In March, the U.S. Department of Labor designated HCC as a registered apprenticeship sponsor, the only institution in the Gulf Coast region to offer manufacturing apprenticeships in collaboration with local companies.
“We’re inviting more area manufacturing-related companies and organizations to join the President’s Corporate Circle,” Burillo-Hopkins said. “We’ll continue this conversation to help us identify challenges and opportunities as we create a vibrant pathway for our students to land lucrative manufacturing jobs. This translates into greater prosperity for the industry and for our community.”